The Ulster Museum, Belfast
Modigliani’s female nudes are among the most arresting and powerful works of the early 20th century, and this masterwork from The Courtauld Gallery is one of the finest and most famous.
Born in Livorno, Italy, Amadeo Modigliani belonged to a cosmopolitan and literary family of Sephardic Jews. He arrived in Paris in 1906, where he quickly established himself as one of the leading members of the artistic avant-garde. He is best known for a series of elongated nudes which betray his knowledge of Egyptian, African and Oceanic sculpture.
The subject is a young woman who appears to be asleep, and although based on traditional depictions of the nude in western art Modigliani has introduced a highly distinctive and revolutionary technique of brushwork. The paint is applied in short stabbing strokes, and manipulated while still wet to heighten the tense outlines and physicality of the female figure. Particularly striking is the re-working of the hair, through which lines have been scratched with the end of the paintbrush.
Many of Modigliani’s paintings depict his friends and lovers, and often his work suggests an intense relationship with the sitter. To follow this theme, Female Nude is hung with a small group of works from the Ulster Museum collection, each of which explores the relationship between artist and sitter