New Book

Modigliani: A Life  by Jeffrey Meyers

M Modig .M67 M49 2006

Astute and prolific Meyers, the Joyce Carol Oates of biographers, has concentrated on  literary lives, and now turns to artists. He dubs Amedeo Modigliani “the greatest Italian painter since Tiepolo,” but, sadly, Modigliani’s talent was matched in force by his self-destructiveness. Efficient yet generous with vivid details and intriguing asides, Meyers describes Modigliani’s hometown, Livorno, Italy, and portrays the artist’s  Jewish family, which, tragically, harbored genes for madness. Modigliani arrived in Paris in 1906, handsome as a god, full of sass and ambition, and steeped in Rimbaud and -Nietzsche. Seductive and outrageous, Modigliani knew everyone yet refused to join any of the headline-grabbing movements, developing, instead, an “intensely idiosyncratic vision” that interested nearly no one. A fickle lover, dependent on drink and drugs, and ill with tuberculosis, his dissolution was catastrophic and his poverty appalling, leading inexorably to his death at 35. Meyers explicitly describes the squalor Modigliani fatalistically endured, dispelling romantic notions about starving artists and starkly exposing a cruel paradox–the wretchedness of Modigliani’s life versus the transcendent beauty of his art. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


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