Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) is famous for his unusual portraits (long necks and noses), nudes, and sculptures. The catalog includes essays by such scholars as Emily Braun, Tamar Garb, Griselda Pollock, and Maurice Berger. Each of the essays attempts to present Modigliani in a fresh light. The scholars’ interpretations serve as revisionist or alternative approaches to the life and work of Modigliani. In addition to the instructive essays, there is a detailed chronology written by Barbara Paltenghi. There also are 188 color and 49 black-and-white illustrations included in the catalog that give the reader a breathtaking introduction to the unique art created by Modigliani.
The 2004 exhibition that inspired Modigliani: Beyond the Myth was organized by the New York Jewish Museum. For the organizers, it was essential that Modigliani’s status as a Sephardic Jew properly be emphasized. Editor Mason Klein believes that the sensational aspects surrounding the artist’s bohemian life should not be allowed to overshadow Modigliani’s amazing production as an artist. The tragedy of his early death and the suicide of his pregnant girlfriend immediately after his death cannot be ignored, but these events merely are part of the full picture.
Modigliani is a great artist in spite of the debauchery of his lifestyle not because of it. The curator, his staff, and the contributing scholars who made this catalog possible must be commended for their efforts. Modigliani: Beyond the Myth goes a long way to placing the artist in his rightful place as one of the giants of contemporary art.