Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Property from a Distinguished Collection
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

Beatrice Hastings assise

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Beatrice Hastings assise
signed 'Modigliani' (lower right)
oil on cradled board
29 1/8 x 19 5/8 in. (74 x 49.8 cm.)
Painted in 1915
Paul Guillaume, Paris (by circa 1928).
Giulio Scalvini, Milan (by 1950); sale, Sotheby & Co., London, 1 July 1959, lot 77.
Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London (March 1960).
Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence S. Pollock, Sr., Dallas (acquired from the above, 3 September 1960); sale, Christie's, New York, 11 November 1997, lot 143.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owners.
A. Pfannstiel, Modigliani: L'art et la vie, Paris, 1929, p. 9.
G. di San Lazzaro, Modigliani, Paris, 1953, p. 6, no. 18 (illustrated).
A. Pfannstiel, Modigliani et son oeuvre: Etude critique et catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1956, p. 71, no. 56 (titled Jeune fille sur une chaise (Mme Hastings); with incorrect dimensions and support).
G. Ballo, Modern Italian Painting: From Futurism to the Present Day, London, 1958, p. 35 (illustrated in color; titled Madame Hasting).
A. Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani: Peintre, Milan, 1958, p. 46, no. 37 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions and support).
A. Ceroni, I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, p. 91, no. 80 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions and support).
J. Lanthemann, Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné, sa vie, son oeuvre complet, son art, Barcelona, 1970, p. 113, no. 86 (illustrated p. 181; with incorrect dimensions) .
T. Castieau-Barrielle, La vie et l'oeuvre de Amedeo Modigliani, Paris, 1987, p. 121 (illustrated in color; with incorrect support).
C. Parisot, Modigliani: Catalogue raisonné, peintures, dessins, aquarelles, Livorno, 1991, vol. II, p. 282, no. 21/1915 (illustrated, p. 81; with incorrect dimensions and support).
O. Patani, Amedeo Modigliani: Catalogo generale, dipinti, Milan, 1991, p. 106, no. 81 (illustrated; with incorrect dimensions and support).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts and Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Art italien contemporain, January-April 1950, no. 62 and 94, respectively (titled Portrait de femme and dated circa 1914).
Milan, Galeria Annunciata, Opera in Mostra, January 1957.
Dallas, Museum for Contemporary Arts, Texas Collects 20th Century Art, May 1963, no. 31 (illustrated; titled Portrait de Beatrice Hastings).
New York, Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., Important European Paintings from Texas Private Collections, November-December 1964, no. 28 (illustrated).
Dallas, Museum of Fine Arts, February 1989-August 1997 (on extended loan).

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Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

The enduring appeal in the art of Amedeo Modigliani lies foremost in the refined and charming characterization—distinctively modernist, nonetheless—that he accorded his sitters, also in the stories their pictures may tell, and ultimately, in the fascinating legend that accrued to the artist himself. All three attributes attend to this tender, beguiling portrait, one in the sequence of eleven such works that Modigliani painted of Beatrice Hastings during 1914-1916, as Ambrogio Ceroni ascribed by name in his final catalogue, plus the well-known Madam Pompadour (Ceroni, 1970, no. 57; op. cit., 1970). An imaginative writer and irrepressibly free spirit, a “new” woman living at the cutting edge of early 20th century modernity, Beatrice Hastings became the first and, through the force of her remarkable personality, the most galvanizing and potently catalytic of the muses who presided over Modigliani’s life and work.
It was only after Modigliani and Beatrice broke off their relationship that the artist became enamored of the 19-year-old academy student Jeanne Hébuterne, who became the great love of his final years. Jeanne’s attachment to Modigliani was such that two days after his death in January 1920 she jumped from a window and killed herself—she was nearly full-term with their second child. The story of Modigliani’s life with Beatrice Hastings during the First World War is nearly as fraught with bohemian pathos and the perils of extreme romance. If Modigliani remains today the archetype of the 20th-century peintre maudit, poor Jeanne was no less accursed, and for different reasons, Beatrice too—her story is melodramatic cinema come to life, in which reality ultimately intervened as the sad finale.
The portraits that Modigliani painted of Beatrice are sensitive, admiring mementos of this resolutely unconventional woman, with whom he had a turbulent affair that ran the gamut—for both lovers—of all the emotions that two such lively, creative personalities might experience together. Coinciding with Modigliani’s return to painting after concentrating on carved-stone sculpture, the artist’s depictions of Beatrice are preeminent among his middle-period paintings, and thus represent a crucial stage in his artistic development. Forged in the white heat of their blazing passion, the results transcend all circumstance. “From that time on,” Jeanne Modigliani, the artist’s daughter, wrote, “his work became continually more sure, more intense, and more serene” (Modigliani: Man and Myth, New York, 1958, p. 75).
Beatrice Hastings is the pen name that Emily Alice Beatrice Haigh, born in London, 1879, and raised in South Africa, assumed when she became a writer—she claimed to have once been married to a Cape Town prize fighter named Hastings. In April 1914 she arrived in Paris on assignment to author a column about the city for the influential London literary journal, The New Age, whose editor, A.R. Orage, had been her lover. Beatrice soon became the subject of gossip among artists and writers in Montparnasse and Montmartre; Picasso’s friend the poet Max Jacob described her as “a great English poet... drunken, musical (a pianist), bohemian, elegant, dressed in the manner of the Transvaal and surrounded by a gang of bandits on the fringe of the arts” (quoted in J. Richardson, A Life of Picasso: The Cubist Rebel 1907-1916, New York, 1996, vol. II, p. 368). She was rumored to cut notches in the headboard of her bed to keep tally of her numerous occasional lovers.
André Salmon—also a poet and close friend of Picasso—took a more measured view than Jacob of Beatrice’s talents; he remembered her as “the poetess who produced no poetry, having deliberately put all her lyric gifts into her amours… She thought Modigliani was handsome; she was attracted to him; she wanted to become his mistress. Moreover, her poet’s sensitivity enabled her to divine his genius, which she awakened, or appeared to awaken; and if it was only an illusion, all the more honor to her if, on getting out of her bed, Modigliani began to create the finest work of his all-too-short career” (Modigliani: A Memoir, New York, 1961, p. 152).
Modigliani and Beatrice met during the summer of 1914, first at the Café Rotonde (some say), again at Chez Rosalie, a small restaurant-crémerie that artists liked to frequent—or the other way around, as Beatrice later recalled. In either case, her initial response was ambivalent: “A complex character. A swine and a pearl… Hashish and brandy. Not at all impressed. Didn’t know who he was. He looked ugly, ferocious, and greedy. Met him again at the Café Rotonde. He was shaved and charming. Raised his cap with a pretty gesture, blushed and asked me to come see his work” (quoted in P. Sichel, Modigliani: A Biography. London, 1967, p. 270).
“[Modigliani] was hypnotized by her name,” Salmon wrote. “With his fixation on Dante, he was intoxicated by the music of the word Beatrice—‘Bice’ as Dante called her when speaking of the first meeting with his chaste beloved” (op. cit., 1961, p. 156). Within a few weeks, their affair was in full swing. In 1915, when Beatrice moved into a house on the Butte of Montmartre, Modigliani often stayed the night, after painting nearby in the fabled Bâteau-Lavoir, in a studio his dealer Paul Guillaume had rented for him.
Beatrice was thirty-five when she became Modigliani’s “Beà”, his reigning goddess and muse; the painter was five years younger. “He thrived on chaos, and a roaring girl, even wilder than himself, was just what he needed to fire him up,” Jeffrey Meyers has written. “Totally lacking in the traditional English reticence and reserve, Beatrice was a sexual juggernaut, physically aggressive and determined to take her pleasure in the same way as a man” (op. cit., 2006, pp. 131 and 137). Their reckless, impassioned love-making alternated with violent quarrels. “Once, we had a royal battle,” Beatrice recounted, “ten times up and down the house, he armed with a pot and me with a long straw brush... How happy I was!” (quoted in B. Klüver and J. Martin, Kikis Paris, New York, 1989, p. 68).
However, in Béatrice Hastings assise, the present portrait, Modigliani’s hot-blooded lover is relaxed and contemplative, her arms configured in an egg-shaped, cradle-like embrace, resembling a seated Buddha. This painting suggests how Beatrice inspired Modigliani to settle into his work, the other side of the coin—as it were—in their tempestuous lifestyle. In what was to become a signature stylization, Modigliani tilted her head, which surmounts an elongated, swan-like neck, a gesture he derived from the 16th century Italian Mannerist painters Pontormo and Parmigianino. The artist Charles Douglas thought the idea came to Modigliani from “glimpsing his mistress through the neck of an absinthe bottle” (quoted in M. Secrest, Modigliani: A Life, New York, 2011, p. 230).
Beatrice’s pencil-thin eyebrows, almond-shaped eyes, and the flattened roundness of her face resemble the features in those mask-like stone heads Modigliani had carved during 1909-1914, alluding to African, Egyptian, and Byzantine models—Beatrice kept one of these sculptures in her bedroom. The curving arabesque of the latticework, wicker chair frame emphasizes the concentricity of elements that comprise this portrait, betokening Modigliani’s worshipful admiration for Cézanne, from aspects of composition to the use of partly painted surfaces as a purposeful means of pictorial facture.
The wild romance between Modigliani and Beatrice is miraculous for having lasted as long as it did, if only about two years, before each of them moved on to new partners in mid-1916. Beatrice caught Modigliani in a rendezvous at the Rotonde with her French-Canadian friend Simone Thiroux (who later bore the artist a son, whom he did not acknowledge), and threw a wine glass at her, leaving a scar above her eye. Beatrice took up with the sculptor Alfredo Pina, another Italian. The final scene between Modigliani and Beatrice took place at the banquet Marie Vassilieff held in January 1917 to celebrate Braque’s recovery from a severe, wartime head wound. Knowing that Beatrice would appear with Pina, Vassilieff attempted to pay Modigliani to steer clear of the gathering. He showed up anyway, and as he burst through the door, Pina aimed a pistol at him. Vassilieff shoved Modigliani back into the street, while Picasso and a friend bolted the door behind him.
Beatrice Hastings returned to Britain in 1931, but was unable to regain her pre-war status in literary circles. Impoverished, ruining her health with drink, she lived out her remaining years penning diatribes against those whom she believed had denigrated her reputation. Beatrice was terminally ill when, on 30 October 1943, she burned her papers, cradled her pet white mouse in her hands, and took her own life by inhaling gas from a domestic cooker.

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