This striking female nude is one of several painted by Amedeo Modigliani between 1916 and 1917. Beyond the reclining figure’s apparent gracefulness and tranquillity, the painting presents a radical reworking of the conventions of figure painting, which still retains some of its original provocation today.
Modigliani incorporated stylistic elements taken from cultures outside Europe with the Western tradition of idealised female nudes. The woman’s elongated head, for example, relates to the Egyptian, African and Oceanic sculptures he had studied at Paris’s ethnographic museum. Furthermore, the artist’s rough handling of paint differs from the highly finished, smoothed surfaces found in most Salon nudes of the period. Her flushed face, scratched-out strands of hair and the rawness of brushwork present a sexualised form of beauty that went against conventional standards. The depiction of pubic hair was also shocking at the time. Police even closed a 1917 exhibition of Modigliani’s nudes at the Berthe Weill gallery in Paris on the grounds of indecency.
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