Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)

Homme assis (appuyé sur une Canne)

Details
Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
Homme assis (appuyé sur une Canne)
signed 'Modigliani' (upper right)
oil on canvas
49 5/8 x 29½in. (126 x 75cm.)
Painted in 1918
Provenance
Roger Dutilleul, Paris.
Anon. sale, Paris, circa 1940-45, to J. Livengood, Paris, and thence by descent to the present owners.
Literature
A. Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1958, no. 113 (illustrated, wrong size given).
A. Ceroni and F. Cachin, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Modigliani, Paris, 1972, no. 252 (illustrated p. 101, wrong size given).
O. Patani, Amedeo Modigliani, Milan, 1991, no. 265 (illustrated p. 268, wrong size given).
C. Parisot, Modigliani Catalogue Raisonné, Livorno, 1991, no. 31/1918 (illustrated p. 215, wrong size given).
Exhibited
Venice, XVII Exposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, Mostra Individuale di Amedeo Modigliani, 1930, no. 16 (titled 'Rittratto del dott. X').
Sale room notice
Please note the following additional lit ref for this lot: J. Lanthemann, 'Modigliani: Catalogue Raisonne, Sa vie, son Oeuvre Complet, son art,', Barcelona, 1970, no. 118 (illus p. 189, wrong size given).

Lot Essay

In March 1918, Modigliani's dealer Leopold Zborowski moved a troupe of his protegés and their closest companions to the south of France, to avoid the worsening situation in Paris and the approach of German troops. Soutine, Foujita, Fernande Barrey and Hanka Zborowski were all included, whilst Modigliani was accompanied by the now pregnant Jeanne Hébuterne and her mother.

Modigliani soon became restless living with the group in their lodgings in Nice organized by Zborowski in rue Masséna. He moved Jeanne and her mother to the Hôtel Torelli, rue de France, and began to work in a room rented by the Cubist painter Leopold Survage whom he met in a bar.

Nice lacked the professional models and wealthy sitters of Paris, thus Modigliani was able to paint whom he liked, as he wished, unhampered by the vanity of potential purchasers. The portraits of 1918 of unknown sitters are characterized by a sculpturality not apparent in earlier works. His brushwork tends to waiver between heavily worked areas in the essential parts of the composition and looser, broader strokes towards the edges of his subjects. Whether the palette is sombre or high key, the technique remains the same. Compare, for instance, the present painting with the contemporary Le Petit Paysan now housed in the Tate Gallery (Fig. 3). The exceptional element of Homme assis is the fine impasto which Modigliani has used in the sitter's clothes, cane and more particularly in his eyes which are unusually well-worked for a painting of this period.

Jean Cocteau remarked of Modigliani's portraiture "Chez Modigliani la ressemblance est si forte qu'il arrive, comme pour Lautrec, que cette ressemblance s'exprime en soi, et frappe ceux qui n'ont point connu le modèle. La ressemblance n'est pas alors qu'un prétexte par l'entremise duquel le peintre exprime sa propre image. Et non pas son image physique, mais celle, mystérieuse de'son génie" (J. Cocteau, Modigliani, Paris, 1950).

Homme assis (appuyé sur une canne) was bought by the well-known collector Roger Dutilleul, who met Modigliani in the autumn of 1918. Dutilleul had an impressive collection of paintings by all the foremost modern painters and enjoyed showing them to the Italian. Modigliani was especially taken by a Picasso still-life, which prompted him to remark "How great he is, he's always ten years ahead of the rest of us" (see J. Rose, Modigliani, The Pure Bohemian, London, 1990, p. 201). Dutilleul commissioned a portrait (Fig. 1), and Modiglaini asked if he could have the Picasso in his room for inspiration whilst he painted it, along with sixty-five francs a day, plus the canvas and several bottles.

Dutilleul became a great patron, amassing one of the most extensive and celebrated collections of Modigliani paintings. It included two other works of 1918, namely Le Fils du Concierge (Ceroni, 1972, no. 239) and La Fille avec un Béret (Ceroni, 1970, no. 244) as well as Jeune Femme assise devant un Lit (Ceroni, 1970, no. 316, Fig. 2), now in the County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, Fils Assis (Ceroni, 1970, no. 300) and Femme Assise avec un Enfant (Ceroni, 1970, no. 334), both now in the Musée d'Art Moderne, Villeneuve d'Ascq, and portraits of Survage, Jeanne and Hanka Zborowski.

This portrait was one of thirty-nine paintings exhibited in the 1930 Venice Biennale, in a special one-man show devoted to Modigliani. The introduction was written by Lionello Venturi and worked were lent by Paul Guillaume, Max Pellequer, Georges Bernheim and Jonas Netter and others. Amongst these were such celebrated paintings as La Gitane à l'Enfant (Ceroni 1972 no. 247), also of 1918 and now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and a portrait of Hanka Zborowski (Anna) (Ceroni 1972 no. 160) of 1917, now in the Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Rome.
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