Project Description

Amedeo Modigliani and Jeanne Hébuterne

Amedeo Modigliani was born in the Tuscan seaport of Livorno on July 12, 1884. As a young man, he enrolled in art schools in Livorno, Florence and Venice, where he studied academic painting and life drawing. He would not stay long in Italy – “As an artist,” Modigliani liked to say, quoting Nietzsche, “a man has no home in Europe save in Paris.” He arrived there in 1906 at the age of 21. Aside from small sums that his mother occasionally mailed him from Livorno, Modigliani survived mainly on quick sketches of people in cafés that he traded for coins, a meal, or a drink. In the spring of 1917, Modigliani was introduced to a beautiful 19-year-old art student named Jeanne Hébuterne.  Hébuterne was renounced by her devout Roman Catholic family for her liaison with Modigliani, whom they saw as little more than a debauched derelict. Despite her family’s objections, they were soon living together. Jeanne began to pose for him and soon became a principal subject for Modigliani’s art. In 1918, Modigliani left Paris with Hébuterne to escape the war and travelled to Nice and Cagnes-sur-Mer. They would spend a year in France. During that time, they had a busy social life with many friends, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico and André Derain. After Modigliani and Hébuterne moved to Nice on November 29, 1918, she gave birth to a daughter whom they named Jeanne. In May 1919 they returned to Paris with their infant daughter and moved into an apartment on the rue de la Grande Chaumière. Hébuterne became pregnant again. Modigliani then got engaged to her, but Jeanne’s parents were against the marriage, especially because of Modigliani’s reputation as an alcoholic and drug user. However, Modigliani officially recognized her daughter as his child. The wedding plans were shattered independently of Jeanne’s parents’ resistance when Modigliani discovered he had a severe form of tuberculosis. On 24 January 1920 Amedeo Modigliani died of tuberculosis. Jeanne Hébuterne’s family brought her to their home – there, inconsolable, she threw herself out of a fifth-floor window, two days after Modigliani’s death, killing herself and her unborn child. Her family, blamed her demise on Modigliani and at the beginning interred her in the Cimetière de Bagneux. Nearly ten years later the family relented and allowed her remains to be transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery to rest beside Modigliani. A single tombstone honors them both. His epitaph reads: “Struck down by death at the moment of glory”. Hers reads: “Devoted companion to the extreme sacrifice”.