Last Chance to See: Modigliani

Counting down the final days for this unforgettable exhibit of startling intimacy.

We don’t have much time so I’ll give you the gist: there’s a really amazing opportunity to practically stick your face in a priceless masterpiece – actually, more like 60 priceless masterpieces by the fascinating Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani, presented with cultural ingenuity by The Barnes Foundation from now until January 29.

Even if the name’s not ringing a bell, you totally know his famous style: the elongated necks, the narrow faces with stretched features and haunting eyes, his muted color palette. He was a sculptor, too, carving heads and figures that evoke African and other indigenous art. Modigliani’s work is iconic in the true sense of the word: an instantly recognizable likeness, representing a universal emotion or experience. That’s what great art does, especially when it’s arranged with care as only The Barnes can do.

Albert C. Barnes chartered his Foundation in 1922 to provide people from all walks of life access to incredible art, taking great care to showcase European masters alongside African masks, Native American jewelry, and artifacts from other civilizations to show art history as the collaborative continuum it is. With this in mind, The Barnes presents a one-of-a-kind exhibit that tells new secrets and insights about Modigliani’s life and process.

“Up Close” also provides a rare opportunity to drink in Modigliani’s work without glass and velvet ropes between you. Lean in, and you’ll see how he builds depth and richness with a palette that looks to be about five colors but is actually more like twenty. Only the slightest shades of difference – the eye doesn’t even consciously register the variation, but it adds weight and interest.

So does Modigliani’s history, which is another big part of this exhibition. Though he died young from TB at 35, his life was a soap opera of substance abuse, chronic illness, romantic tragedy and artistic exploration. Though he earned a name for himself, it wasn’t for commercial success but rather because his first and only exhibition at the 1917 Paris Show was shut down by police after one day due to issues of obscenity (it soon reopened with the offending pubic hair renderings removed 🤭).

His paintings sell for millions now but barely supported Modigliani while he was alive. New research into his art shows he frugally re-used canvases (both is own & other artists’), and sometimes elements from the image he was painting over would become a part of his final composition. For his sculptures, he chiseled them from long, rectangular blocks commonly used for construction at the time (and perfect for his attenuated forms). Such insights throughout “Up Close” reveal a practical inventiveness as keen as his artistic mastery.

Art Blog review by Andrea Kirsh

Learn more in Art Blog’s excellent review, kindly published in this month’s Local newspaper as partners in WHYY’s News & Information Community Exchange. But don’t take our word for it – you’ve still got time to get down to The Barnes to see this legendary Modernist’s art for yourself, “Up Close” and personal, right in our own backyard.

Modigliani Up Close at The Barnes
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
215-278-7000
barnesfoundation.org
Open Thurs thru Mon 11am – 5pm
Guided Tours daily 11:30am & 1pm

This last weekend, art experts from around the world will be hosting conversations about all the research that’s gone into this exhibit, and the great significance of Modigliani at the Barnes:

KEYNOTE LECTURE – Friday January 27, 6pm – 7:30pm
MODIGLIANI UP CLOSE, A SYMPOSIUM – Saturday January 28, 10:30am – 5:30pm; with special access from 5:30 – 6:30PM

ArtBlog’s mission is to create and foster dialog about art, power, value and truth, in order to promote a better future for all. Their independent online arts publication focuses on marginalized artists — BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women — whose art traditionally has been shunned by the mainstream media. theartblog.org 

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