Modigliani’s female nudes are among the most arresting and powerful works of the early 20th century, and this masterwork from The Courtauld Gallery is one of the finest and most famous.
Born in Livorno, Italy, Amadeo Modigliani belonged to a cosmopolitan and literary family of Sephardic Jews. He arrived in Paris in 1906, where he quickly established himself as one of the leading members of the artistic avant-garde. He is best known for a series of elongated nudes which betray his knowledge of Egyptian, African and Oceanic sculpture.
The subject is a young woman who appears to be asleep, and although based on traditional depictions of the nude in western art Modigliani has introduced a highly distinctive and revolutionary technique of brushwork. The paint is applied in short stabbing strokes, and manipulated while still wet to heighten the tense outlines and physicality of the female figure. Particularly striking is the re-working of the hair, through which lines have been scratched with the end of the paintbrush.
Many of Modigliani’s paintings depict his friends and lovers, and often his work suggests an intense relationship with the sitter. To follow this theme, Female Nude is hung with a small group of works from the Ulster Museum collection, each of which explores the relationship between artist and sitter.
The Courtauld Gallery and the Ulster Museum
The Courtauld Gallery in London is home to a celebrated collection of major works of art from the Renaissance to the Twentieth Century. It is most famous for its unrivalled displays of Impressionist and modern paintings, with masterpieces by artists ranging from Monet and Renoir to Cézanne, Van Gogh and Modigliani.
These works were acquired by the pioneering collector and philanthropist, Samuel Courtauld, in the 1920s and 1930s when he was chairman of the textile firm Courtaulds Ltd. He went on to establish The Courtauld Institute of Art in 1932 as a gallery and a university dedicated to the teaching and public dissemination of art history and conservation. Today, The Courtauld continues his founding vision and is one of the world’s leading centres for the study and public enjoyment of art.
This exhibition of Modigliani’s Female Nude is part of an ongoing collaboration with the Ulster Museum. This partnership stems from a new project called Courtauld Connects, which aims to share The Courtauld’s collections with audiences across the United Kingdom, especially in areas where Courtaulds Ltd. once had a significant industrial presence. In Northern Ireland, its major factory opened in Carrickfergus in 1951 and at its height employed two thousand people.