"I am his last model, his final brushstroke."
"This remarkable painting of Paulette Jourdain is very possibly the last portrait Modigliani ever painted, the circumstances surrounding its creation recorded for posterity in an interview in which Paulette recalled she was Modigliani’s ‘last model, his last brushstroke’. The extraordinary living testimony pays homage to a relationship that had fused to create a masterpiece, painted at the height of Modigliani’s career that was tragically cut short soon after - but one that would long outlast their short but memorable encounter."
Interviewed for a little-known French television documentary in 1991, the elderly Paulette Jourdain recalled with great clarity the circumstances surrounding the creation, some 70 years earlier, of one of Modigliani’s last, great works of portraiture – her portrait, this portrait – rendered at the height of Modigliani’s storied career, so tragically cut short by his untimely death aged 35 just a few months later. A first hand witness to his last days, Paulette claimed ‘I am his last model, his last brushtroke’, remembering as if it were yesterday the sessions she spent modelling for him, first in swiftly executed drawings and later in paint, ennobled on a large scale canvas by the enigmatic artist she had first met at the apartments of the avant-garde dealer, Leopold Zborowski. With a memorable smile, Paulette described Modigliani’s working methods, how he recited Baudelaire and sang from Verdi operas; how he had gone about his task with such happiness – recollections made all the more poignant in her memory given that soon after, she would be tasked with assisting with his interment and caring for Jeanne Hebuterne, the artists inconsolable, pregnant wife. Despite the intervening years, Paulette had preserved a corner of her apartment as a shrine to the memory of this seminal period of her life, replete with sepia tone photographs and torn reproductions of the artists of the Ecole de Paris that she had known so well – and at its core, a reproduction of this, the present painting, flanked by its chief protagonists – Modigliani the artist, Jourdain the model – testimony to a relationship that had fused to create a masterpiece that would long outlast their short but memorable encounter.