Modigliani in NYC

I saw the exhibition Modigliani: Beyond the Myth at The Jewish Museum in New York this week. I highly recommend it, it is a wonderful exhibit. (It|AMP|#8217;s only on until Sept 19th so don|AMP|#8217;t delay.) There was a twenty minute wait in line, apparently much more reasonable than a few months ago. The experience was definitely worth the wait.

One nice thing about shows that focus on the entire career of an artist is that you tend to learn more about an artist|AMP|#8217;s background than possible through just a few pieces mixed in with works by others. Modigliani died at the age of 34, but created quite a bit during his short life. Before learning about this exhibition, I had no idea that Modigliani was Jewish. One may wonder why that matters, but given the anti-Semitism he encountered once he moved to Paris, and given that much of his work focused exclusively on portraitures and an exploration of identities, it seems this part of his identity would be important for understanding his work.

Another thing I did not know about Modigliani is that he had worked as a sculptor as well. In fact, it sounds like had it not been for his poor health and the difficulty in obtaining the raw materials for his sculptures, he would have done more with that medium (and it’s unfortunate that he couldn’t). A propos sculptures, as I was looking at some of his sketchings of caryatids I started wondering about the influence of Brancusi on his work. Taking a few steps I was at the sculpture section of the exhibit, and learned that Modigliani had met Brancusi in 1909. Lucky for those in NYC, there is a Brancusi exhibition at the Guggenheim right now just a few blocks from The Jewish Museum also on until Sept 19th. (I cannot vouch for that show as I did not go see it having already seen a Brancusi exhibition in both Paris and Philly years ago, but I suspect this one is similar and thus worth seeing.)

I loved the way the pieces were laid out in the exhibit. I looked at the following three pieces right next to each other for several minutes taking a few steps back: The Italian Women, 1917; Lunia Czechowska (La femme a l|AMP|#8217;eventail), 1919; and Paulette Jourdain, 1919. (Unfortunately, I can|AMP|#8217;t find the middle piece online nor in the exhibition book. Otherwise I|AMP|#8217;d try to recreate the effect here. There are several variants with that name, the one I am looking for had a strong red background, which was in beautiful contrast with the other two pieces surrounding it.)

After the Modigliani show I decided to take a look at the permanent collection as well. The material is interesting and diverse with a focus on different historical periods, parts of the world and types of materials. One of my favorite sections was the collection of menorahs on the top floor (especially the modern versions).

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