The Fascinating Modigliani Exhibition at the Orangerie Museum

Expo Sam Szafran

Art enthusiasts captivated by Modigliani's brushwork are in for a treat. The musée de l’Orangerie is currently hosting the extraordinary exhibition, "Amedeo Modigliani: A Painter and His Dealer", focusing on the artist's final years from 1914 to 1920. The reason? It was during this period that he met Paul Guillaume, a gallery owner who would become both a close friend and his preferred dealer. Let's take you on a tour.


An Artistic Friendship

Top hat, mustache, and a sharp suit: these are the distinctive features of Paul Guillaume as immortalized by Amedeo Modigliani in each of his portraits. The two friends first crossed paths in 1914 through the poet Max Jacob, and the following year, they embarked on a professional relationship. The patron encouraged the Italian-born painter to transition back to painting after dedicating himself almost exclusively to sculpture.

The exhibition reveals Paul Guillaume's significant role in Modigliani's career. He rented him a studio in bustling Montmartre – the place to be in the 1910s – and, most importantly, introduced him to the coveted artistic and literary circles of the capital city. Fueled by these new connections, Modigliani produced a significant number of drawings and, above all, several hundred paintings in just six years. Paul Guillaume collected dozens of them, adorning the walls of his apartment-gallery.

The highlight of the exhibition: the film shown at the end, featuring archives and reconstructions to trace the evolution of his personal collection, which also includes works by Cézanne, Picasso, Matisse, and others, underscoring the importance of this unsung figure in the art world.


African Art, Portraits, and More

They make an interesting pair. In the early 20th century, African art had little presence in Parisian galleries, except in the gallery of the avant-garde Paul Guillaume. Modigliani, on the other hand, was influenced by the heads and masks he observed at the Louvre and the musée d’Ethnographie (now the Musée de l’Homme). Their shared passion led Paul to exhibit his friend's sculptures, which can be seen at the Orangerie alongside Modigliani's portraits, also inspired by so-called "primitive" art. Dare you to find the seven differences between the "Head of a Woman" (1911-1913) and "The Red-Haired Girl" (1915)?


Pubic Hair on a Canvas? So Shocking!

Even though Amedeo Modigliani had a new art dealer, Leopold Zborowski, from 1916 onwards, Paul Guillaume continued to acquire and sell his favorite artist's paintings, even the most provocative for the time. Modigliani resumed his production of female nudes. However, for the Parisian public of the 1910s, seeing pubic hair was considered too scandalous! These portraits were eventually removed from the only solo exhibition dedicated to Modigliani during his lifetime. In 2023 at the Orangerie, one cannot help but admire the "Reclining Nude" (1917-1918): a masterpiece that alone justifies the visit.

"Amedeo Modigliani. Un peintre et son marchand" runs from September 20, 2023, to January 15, 2024, at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde (Seine side), Paris 1st. The museum is open every day (except Tuesdays) from 9 am to 6 pm. Tickets start at €8. For more information and reservations online.

© RMN-Grand Palais (Orangerie Museum) / Hervé Lewandowski

© RMN-Grand Palais (Orangerie Museum) / DR

Also, discover the must-see exhibitions this fall and the glam series on supermodels.

Read this next

The week of Do It