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Paysage dans le Midi

Paysage dans le Midi
signed twice 'Modigliani' (lower left and right)
oil on canvas
24 x 18 1/8 in. (61.1 x 46.2 cm.)
Painted in Cagnes in 1919
Louis Libaude, Paris (by 1922).
Private collection, Switzerland.
Carstairs Gallery, New York.
Charles and Catherine Dewey, New York (by 1959); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 9 May 1989, lot 45.
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne and Paris (by 1991).
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1999).
The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, Las Vegas (acquired from the above, 6 August 1999); sale, Sotheby's, New York, 9 November 2000, lot 35.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
A. Pfannstiel, Modigliani et son œuvre, Paris, 1956, p. 136, no. 247 (dated 1918).
A. Ceroni and L. Piccioni, I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, p. 102, no. 293 (illustrated, p. 103).
C. Mann, Modigliani, London, 1980, pp. 183 and 214, no. 133 (illustrated in color, p. 183).
T. Castieau-Barrielle, La vie et l'œuvre de Amedeo Modigliani, Paris, 1987, p. 192 (illustrated in color).
O. Patani, Amedeo Modigliani: Catalogo generale dipinti, Milan, 1991, p. 303, no. 304 (illustrated in color).
S. Butler, Modigliani, London, 1994, p. 136 (illustrated, p. 137).
D. Krystof, Amedeo Modigliani: The Poetry of Seeing, Cologne, 1996 p. 85 (illustrated in color, p. 84).
Cincinnati Art Museum, Contemporary Arts Center, Amedeo Modigliani, April-May 1959, no. 22 (dated circa 1918).
New York, Art and Antiques Dealers League of America, Inc., Artistic Beauty of the Centuries, May 1966, p. 55 (illustrated in color).
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., Amedeo Modigliani, October-November 1971, no. 45.
Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen and Kunsthaus Zürich, Amedeo Modigliani: Malerei, Skulpturen, Zeichnungen, January-July 1991, p. 224 (illustrated, p. 137, pl. 89).
Tokyo, Tobu Museum; Kyoto, Daimaru; Osaka, Daimaru and Ibaraki, Museum of Modern Art, Amedeo Modigliani au Japon, November 1992-March 1993, p. 134, no. 41 (illustrated in color, p. 135).
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Les peintres de Zborowski: Modigliani, Utrillo, Soutine et leurs amis, June-October 1994, p. 167, no. 21 (illustrated in color).
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Inc., XIX & XX Century Master Paintings and Sculptures, October-November 1998 (pl. 12).
Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Amedeo Modigliani, March-June 1999, p. 202, no. 63 (illustrated in color, p. 130).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Sale room notice
Please note that the present lot is displayed with a loaner frame for the exhibition, which is available for purchase.

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

In March 1918, Amedeo Modigliani left Paris for the south of France, driven from the city by the rapidly shifting circumstances of the First World War. That spring, the German army had launched a sustained offensive on the French capital, positioning three enormous railway-mounted guns, collectively known as “Big Bertha” within striking distance of the city. The most powerful mobile artillery used in the war, the guns were capable of shelling Paris and its environs from a distance of over sixty miles. Their lack of precision made the ensuing bombardment a terrifying and unpredictable experience, with earth-shaking explosions hitting the city in regular intervals, bringing death and destruction at random. People fled Paris in their droves, escaping to the countryside, with many flocking to the Côte d’Azur.
Modigliani’s dealer and fervent champion during these years, Léopold Zborowski, quickly made plans to leave Paris with his wife Hanka, and persuaded the artist and his young lover Jeanne Hébuterne to accompany them. While Zborowski was eager to escape the bombardment and believed that warmer climes would also improve Modigliani’s health, economic circumstances played a key role in his decision. The Parisian art market, which had been tenuous at best during the previous years of the war, had collapsed dramatically amid the mass exodus, and Zborowski hoped that a move south would allow him the opportunity to sell art to the well-heeled and fashionable crowd that were congregating in the resort towns along the Mediterranean coast. By the time the group departed Paris, it had grown to include Jeanne’s disapproving mother Eudoxie, the painter Chaïm Soutine, and the Japanese artist Léonard-Tsuguharu Foujita and his new wife, former model and artist Fernande Barrey. Funded by the Parisian collector Jonas Netter, the unlikely troupe travelled by train to Nice, before settling into a series of villas and farmhouses in the hills around Haut-de-Cagnes.
Though most of the party would return to Paris by the end of the summer, Modigliani remained in the area for over a year—transported from the bustling urban environment of the capital to the peaceful, verdant, sun-drenched landscapes of the South, his art underwent a series of important changes, most notably in his adoption of a more luminous palette and a concentrated focus on children and anonymous locals in his portraiture. Perhaps most surprisingly, in early 1919 he began to explore landscape subjects, seen first in the form of outdoor settings for his figures, and culminating in a quartet of compositions that focused on views of Haut-de-Cagnes and its surroundings. In an undated letter to Zborowski, Modigliani reported that he was “trying to do some landscapes,” modestly explaining that “the first might possibly look like a beginner’s” (quoted in S. Fraquelli and N. Ireson, eds., Modigliani, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2017, p. 154). In each of the four paintings that emerged, the only pure landscape compositions of the artist’s mature oeuvre, Modigliani captures the steep terrain and luminous tones of the countryside in tightly cropped views, anchored by the prominent placement of towering trees and simplified architectural forms.
In Paysage dans le Midi Modigliani celebrates the abundance of nature, filling the canvas with an array of rich green tones that describe the vast expanse of foliage and vegetation that surrounded him in the South. To capture a sense of the vertiginous topography, he organized the landscape into a series of cohesive, clearly delineated bands, layering the scene into distinct zones that lead the eye upwards, into the hills. From the bright terracotta railing that cuts diagonally across the foreground, through the screen of cypress trees that tower above the stepped planes of grass, and onwards to the cluster of golden-hued buildings with red roof tiles, and the dense copse of trees surrounding them, Modigliani achieves a sophisticated sense of space and movement, guiding the viewer through the scene, layer by layer. To further accentuate this effect, he uses color to link the various sections of the landscape to one another, threading small touches of vibrant orange through the greenery to create a subtle visual connection between each successive plane of the terraced hillside.
While landscape dominated the output of both Foujita and Soutine at this time, it was the art of Paul Cezanne that exerted the most decisive influence on Modigliani’s painting during his extended sojourn in the Midi. He had greatly admired Cezanne’s work for years, speaking passionately of his paintings and technique when prompted, and is even reported to have carried a reproduction of Cezanne’s Garçon au gilet rouge (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) in his pocket with him constantly, which he took out and kissed reverently each time the older artist was mentioned in conversation. Immersed in the very environment that had proved so inspirational to his hero, Modigliani sought to test himself against his example, engaging directly with the genre that had produced Cezanne’s most revolutionary and experimental artistic explorations over the years. In Paysage dans le Midi, the combination of simplified, geometric forms and the bold structuring of the landscape, as well as the dynamic brushwork that dances across the canvas in short passages, owe a clear debt to Cezanne’s views of Provence. However, Modigliani’s compositions present a highly stylized vision entirely his own, with richer color contrasts and a sense of almost classical simplicity that transforms this timeless setting.

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