This is the first in the beginning of a new project. One of my classes this semester is on the history of Paris, with Professor Kolla, and it has been fascinating to discover the number of the world’s most famous and admired figures who have had some sort of connection with Paris- whether they lived in it for a short time period, or met other great figures there (Hemingway and Fitzgerald met in a bar in Paris, beginning a strenuous relationship between the two) Last night, I saw Midnight in Paris and it was enthralling to see the figures I had been studying in class or had read about myself, all come together in the same time period in the pedophile Woody Allen’s movie. I thought then, how very enriching and thrilling- for myself as well as readers- it could be to learn about some of the people who have made the world what it is today.
These will not necessarily be French. I will start with what I have studied- some which come to mind are the Renaissance, Belle Epoque, the 1920s in France ( aka the Jazz era in the United States- also the time of the Lost Generation such as T. S Elliot, Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Ezra Pound among others), and other individuals regardless of time period.
Think avant-garde French painters- the Impressionists (Eduard Manet and Monet [though the former was never part of the group, but he is often confused to be, because he did not want to go against the official (art) Salon- he was not rebellious like Monet, Degas and Renoir who rebelled against the art community for not accepting their paintings],Titian, Josephine Baker, Michelangelo, Nikola Tesla, Louis-Napoleon, Baron Haussmann, F. Scott Fitzgerald (His relationship with Hemingway is quite entertaining to read of..By the way, the latter was quite a misogynist.. Also, I absolutely admire Fitzgerald’s admiration of his wife Zelda as shown in A Moveable Feast), contrasting Matisse and Cézanne’s vivid paintings, and of course THE WONDERFUL VAN GOGH AND SUSAN SONTAG.
Let’s begin with Modigliani.
This handsome, talented Italian painter spent most of his career in France. Part of the Expressionists, he is known for his very distinct, elongnated style of painting. The below is one of his more intricate pieces- intricate as regards to his emphasis on detail of the subject’s facial features and expression, not at all a common factor in his other works.
Amedeo Modigliani is known for the elongated, and almost simplified look of his subjects. This painting is different because it is one of his earliest works. I wonder whether he changed his style to stand out from others (rival Picasso was around at the time too) or whether this was just his genius thinking. Notice the exhaustive detail in the woman, Maude Abrantes’s face. I can’t help thinking what kind of sorrows she may have for her to have such a somber look. But, she is quite stunning.
He was precocious from early childhood, and, as the following will show, perhaps also troubled in thought, later, in some aspect. Take a look at this excerpt from a letter sent to friend Ghiglia:
” Dear friend
I write to pour myself out to you and to affirm myself to myself.
I am the prey of great powers that surge forth and then disintegrate…
A bourgeois told me today – insulted me – that I or at least my brain was lazy. It did me good. I should like such a warning every morning upon awakening: but they cannot understand us nor can they understand life…”
This is another of the genius’s work, representing his more common elongnated style.
Anyway, Modigliani’s work- not unlike that of many other writers and painters at this time, was not very well-received while he was alive, and he died at the age of 35 from tuberculosis. I am always saddened by the fact that so many of the magnificent and achieved people we know of today never received the fame they deserved when they were alive. Was he too far ahead of his time? If he were alive and working today, would he have been able to achieve success among the myriad of styles today? Regardless of the answer, we know he is in his own league- unbeatable; and though no one will be able to reproduce his work, we can definitely be inspired by him…