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Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Picasso vs. Modigliani

I have recently seen many paintings of Picasso and Modigliani, online of course. I wish to share with you what i feel about them. I am no art critic so please bear with my ignorance if i have missed out on anything.

Modigliani had a deep respect for Picasso as an artist. He used some aspects of Picasso's cubism, and the way Picasso would depict his artistic friends during his blue period would remain one of the main themes in Modigliani's own work.

Pablo Picasso's Blue Period refers to a series of paintings in which the color blue dominates and which he painted between 1901 and 1904. The blue period is a marvelous expression of poetic subtlety and personal melancholy and contributes to the transition of Picasso's style from classicism to abstract art.

Picasso's style is a fascinating synthesis of many of the important styles in modern art, in which he "borrowed" from many of his contempories, and in Modigliani's case he would borrow from a man who had initially borrowed from him.

No-one neither disputes the expressionist quality of Modigliani's art, nor will many disagree that Vincent van Gogh is the arch-father of expressionism. It therefore seems unlikely that Van Gogh was not a major influence on Modigliani and there is ample evidence that he was.

In Modigliani's painting Jeanne H├ębuterne wearing a straw hat the influence of Van Gogh is clearly visible by the prominent monochrome background, the thick, dark contours, the course, expressive brush strokes in the straw hat and the flatness of most of the painting.

If you look at Picasso's painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon then you'll see faces that are crude, and made that even the artistic avant garde would doubt his sanity. It was Modigliani who introduced subtlety to abstract portraiture and it took Picasso decades to construct his version of a mature style of abstract portraiture, which had come naturally to Modigliani.

One of the best examples of Modigliani's style is his painting Jeanne H├ębuterne wearing a straw hat. One of the key-elements of Modigliani's portraitism were the slanted heads, derived from Byzantine cariatides. However, the eyes and mouth are almost horizontal and the curvature of the nose makes it almost vertical. Regardless of these artefacts, the portrait is still as subtle and descriptive as a figurative portrait but has the directness and expression of abstract art. The portrait's subtlety is due to Modigliani's unique talent, but it's essence, the facial construction is one of the most important artistic inventions of modern art.

Picasso would go on schematize Modigliani's facial constructions, which would become the key-element of his own style and what people associate Picasso with, today. This schematized version of Modigliani's style would prove to be far more copyable and hence of far greater direct influence, but would never attain Modigliani's artistic maturity and subtlety, nor would it result in portraits that accurately resembled the subject, as Modigliani's portraits did.

I am now studying the CUBISM style of painting invented by Georges Braque and Picasso.

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