AMEDEO MODIGLIANI & CHAIM SOUTINE
An episode from the series FAMOUS DUOS IN ART HISTORY
Today, Amedeo Modigliani’s nudes and portraits are among the world’s most popular works. They fetch huge prices. His angel’s face, life of poverty, overindulgence in liquor and drugs, and death at the age of 35 have made him a legend. He was the last of the ‘damned’ painters to lead a Bohemian life and undoubtedly the last true Bohemian. Chaim Soutine, a Russian painter who had settled in Paris, was far less famous. His works shocked and upset many, yet he was seen as a prophet of painting across the Atlantic. Pollock, de Kooning and Bacon called themselves his heirs. When Modigliani and Soutine met in wartime Paris in 1915, they seemed as different as chalk and cheese.
So what might they have had in common, Modigliani – the irresistibly beautiful, charming Italian “Prince” of Montparnasse loved by women, who recited verse by Dante and was never without his copy of Lautréamont’s Songs of Maldoror – and Chaim Soutine – the diffident Russian Slav with his shock of hair, considered ugly by some and dirty by others, who barely spoke French? Side by side, they would write a unique chapter in the history of modern art – a mysterious, enigmatic chapter. So what were the keys to this artistic meeting and an improbable, dazzling friendship that lasted only five years?