(Livorno 1884 - Paris 1920)
Standing Nude in Profile (Nu debout de profil)
Inscribed with the Alexandre inventory number 20,1 at the lower right.
427 x 263 mm. (16 3/4 x 10 3/8 in.)
The present sheet was part of a significant collection of works by Modigliani assembled by one of his first and most significant patrons and supporters, Dr. Paul Alexandre (1881-1968). The young physician met Modigliani in 1907, when the artist was twenty-three and Alexandre just three years older. The deep friendship that developed between the artist and his patron over the course of seven or eight years - between 1907 and 1914 - led to Alexandre amassing a substantial collection of twenty-five paintings and nearly five hundred drawings by Modigliani. He also commissioned Modigliani to paint portraits of his father and brother, while he himself posed for three portraits in 1909.
Drawn between 1910 and 1911, in the midst of the five-year period when Modigliani was working as a sculptor, this drawing can be related to the artist’s only full-length sculpture, the limestone Standing Nude of c.1912, today in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. The largest extant sculpture by Modigliani, the Standing Nude is characterized by ‘straight, narrow features and geometric forms [that] compete with sensuous curves in a long, narrow column which could have served as an architectural support or caryatid taking the place of a column or pillar. The folded arms are reminiscent of prehistoric figurines and Greek idols; the elaborate coiffure recalls Egyptian art; and there may be an echo of Cambodian or Khmer sculpture in the suggestion of earrings and a necklace.’
The present sheet is closely related to another drawing of the same subject, dimensions and date, formerly in the collections of Mariska Diederich and Sydney Biddle. Several studies of caryatids with folded arms, seen from the front, are among the cache of drawings assembled by Paul Alexandre and can also be related to the limestone Standing Nude sculpture.
Amedeo Modigliani arrived in Paris in 1906, after studying at the Academies of Florence and Venice. He settled first in Montmartre, where he joined the avant-garde circle of artists that included Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris and André Derain. In 1907 he met his first important patron, Dr. Paul Alexandre, who encouraged him to participate in the Salon des Indépendants the following year. An intensely literate, cultured man, Modigliani befriended Jean Cocteau, Max Jacob, Guillaume Apollinaire and other writers. Despite his friendship with Gino Severini, he declined an invitation to sign the Futurist manifesto in 1910. After moving to Montparnasse, he met Constantin Brancusi and began working as a sculptor, inspired by African and Oceanic art and by Italian Gothic sculpture. Modigliani exhibited a group of his sculptures at the Salon d’Automne in 1912 but, beset by poor health and a shortage of supplies, he abandoned sculpture with the onset of war in 1914. His first one-man show, organized by the Polish poet Leopold Zborowski at the Galerie Berthe Weill in 1917, resulted in a scandal (due to the nudes displayed in the window) that closed the exhibition after one day, without any sales. The artist died of tuberculosis, from which he had been suffering for much of his life, in 1920, at the age of thirty-six.