Modigliani’s depiction of the sitter, who appears to have retreated into her own world, poses interesting questions about the relationship between artist and sitter and I am delighted to see the painting taking on new life at the Ulster Museum. What themes did you explore in preparation for the display and in the context of the National Museum NI’s own rich collections?
Many of Modigliani’s paintings depict his friends and lovers, and I selected a display from the Ulster Museum collection which explored the relationship between artist and sitter. I began with two pencil drawings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti of Elizabeth Siddall, Preparatory studies for Tibullus and Delia (1851). Siddall, modelling for Delia, sits with her eyes closed as if day-dreaming, and as she waits for Tibullus absently draws a thread of hair though her lips.
More forensic were Dermod O’Brien The Painting Room at the Fine Art Academy, Antwerp (1890), Suspense, (1916), by Walter Sickert and Female Nude (1928) by Mark Gertler. The influence of Manet is present in Resting (1905) by Sir William Orpen, a study of one of his favourite models, Lottie Stafford. Family relationships were explored in a charcoal drawing by Frank Auerbach of his wife, Head of Julia (1992) and Stanley Spencer’s portrait of his niece Daphne (1951). The final work was a new acquisition, Untitled (2015) by Belfast born photographer Hannah Starkey, which includes a self-portrait in a series of fractured urban images.