A Comparison Between The Works Of Amedeo

Modigliani And Jacques Villon Essay, Research Paper

Italian-born Cubist painter, Amedeo

Modigliani (1884-1920) and the French, Jacques Villon (1875-1963), both

painted vibrant and expressive portraits during the early twentieth-century.

In this case, the chosen portraits are Modigliani’s “Portrait of Mrs. Hastings”,

1915 and Villon’s “Mme. Fulgence”, 1936.

Both of these compositions are portraits.

Nothing is of more importance than the sitter herself. The female sitter

in Modigliani’s piece, sits in an almost dizzying pose with a twist in

her elongated neck (a Modigliani trademark), a stylized and mask-like head

and a columnar neck. All of which give the sitter a blank and

ashen expression. She looks at the viewer, head-on with a most piercing

air in her eyes. In Villon’s case, his female sitter has been created

solely with the use of layered colours and a very random synthetist outline

technique (a similar technique the post-impressionist painter Gaugin used).

Modigliani outlines his figure moreso in black than Villon.

Mme. Fulgence’s age is understood by the strong dynamic colour quality

that has been used to break her face apart. In a way, these colourful

divisions act as wrinkles. For instance, the chunk of layered pink

on her lip creates a scowl and the heavily applied white on her nose helps

it to seem upright; a ’snobbish’ upturn. Colours such as the orange,

have been used to highlight her left cheek and only visible ear.

With these effects, the viewer sees Mme. Fulgence as a very proper and

‘posh’ (if you will) woman. Bitterness is only a common linkage with

the other attributes. Modigliani’s Hastings on the other hand seems

to be an intense woman of a compassionate nature. Both of these pieces

have relied heavily on the expressive and wild use of colour to create

emotional expressions and unerring form.

Both of these portraits are created

using oil paints–Modigliani’s on cardboard and Villon’s on canvas.

The most important element that draws their work away from the mainstream

is their heavy application of paint. Although they both apply their

colour liberally, Modigliani’s strokes are thick, jagged, and for the most

part random. His brushstrokes are also particularly long, whereas

Villon’s are short and brief. Modigliani uses monochromatic hues

of red to create the prominent colour of the piece and like Villon, he

has used a very vague background to express the importance of his sitter.

Colour is of equal importance in both pieces as it draws the viewer in

and allows the viewer’s eyes to be brought around the piece. Modigliani

has split his background from top to bottom, using red and strokes of burnt

sienna at first, then an auburn and deeper red for the bottom. This

definite split in the background creates a base so that the chair on which

the sitter is seated does not get lost and mistaken for part of the background.

The weighty application in both portraits

creates a brilliant textural finish. The expressive nature that is

brought out in the quick brushstrokes is equally defined in the actual

texture of the painting plain. In Modigliani’s background, the strokes

are long and applied at a rapid pace. Whereas in Villon’s background,

his strokes are shorter and seem to have more of a planned location (just

as Seurat applies his paint).

Villon has placed his subject in

front of the background in an almost symmetrical manner. This poses

the idea that the two really do not have an intense relationship whatsoever.

The ‘Madame’ is not quite centred to look at the viewer dead-on as Modigliani’s

is, her body is shifted slightly to the left. Modigliani’s sitter,

on the other hand has been placed carefully on her foreground, off to the

left. This brings in ample space for the chair. Having his

subject seated, Modigliani says more about the subject’s surroundings.

Villon has merely placed Mme. Fulgence in front of a green background,

with only the highlights of her age to carry one through the piece.

As stated before, the negative space that is prevalent in both pieces is

highly effective as it does not take away from the issue at hand: the seated.

Both artists have used the application

of their colours to their advantage in creating emotion merely through

its use. Whether the colours are blended like Modigliani or choppy

and difficult to ingest (for the colours are used at their most vibrant

tone) as Villon’s are, both artist’s used an extreme colour palette to

bring forth the ideal emotions and/or physical standing of their models.


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