Amedeo Modigliani - Odalisque bleu (Odalisca blu)
Odalisque bleu (Odalisca blu)
Watercolour on thin, chamois-coloured drawing paper 53.5/53.9 x 41.3 cm Framed under glass. Signed 'modigliani' in pencil lower right. - The sheet slightly irregularly trimmed. - Minimally browned. Narrow traces of fold to upper margin. Older marginal defects (tears) professionally restored.
“The Cubist - or more accurately, the emphatically structural - elements gradually recede in Modigliani's art after 1916. He progressively lessens the faces' angular rendering, their subjection to linear or geometric divisions, their understanding primarily in terms of formal configurations. Their previously decidedly formal constraints made way for a greater naturalness and relaxedness. The portraits, which now also more often display the upper torso and the arms, were freed from those formal strictures in which formal freedom and formal confidence had previously found a particularly manifest form; precisely these manipulations had - beyond the depiction of the individual person - been the basis of the great aesthetic appeal of the portraits of 1915 and 1916. [...] Furthermore, the stylistic shift described here also applies to the drawings that always accompanied his work as a painter, regardless of whether or not they are related to specific paintings. Here, as well, the formalisms gradually disappear to be replaced by a free and melodious linear flow that is no longer interrupted by sharply accentuated interventions and can extend to the point of great elegance.” (Werner Schmalenbach, Die Bildnisse, in: Amedeo Modigliani, exhib. cat. Düsseldorf, op. cit., pp. 38/39).
This specific form of elegance perceived by Schmalenbach is indubitably also to be found in the present sheet featuring a female half-figure nude, who possesses not only beautiful contours and a charming softness but also a poetic grace through the inclination of the head and through the feminine rounding of the figure in the shoulders and arms. In terms of the motif, she stirs reminiscences of sacred iconography and classic female figures in the history of Western art (Botticelli, Parmigianino), which were very familiar to Modigliani. The extraordinary depictions of the female nude in his oeuvre reflect this knowledge, and they are characterised by their combination of naturalness and a will to form.
The profile of the face of the blue “Odalisque” resembles the physiognomy of Béatrice Hastings, who - as a friend of Max Jacob - was a part of the circle of Montparnasse and was Modigliani's lover for several years, leading us to believe that the nude of this watercolour may have been identified.
List of works
Patani (1994) 398
We would like to thank Ulf Küster, Fondation Beyeler Basel, for additional information.
Albert Gleizes, Paris; Galerie Dr. Willi Raeber, Basel; Dr. Reinhold Hohl, Basel; Private collection, Basel; Galerie Beyeler, Basel (1975, most probably this sheet, documented in the Beyeler archive with the title "Odalisque Bleue (Luna Czechowska)"; Galerie Moos, Geneva (acquired there in 1974); since then private collection, Lugano
Oswaldo Patani, Modigliani, Disegni, Milano 1976, no. 59, colour illus. ("Odalisque blu, 1917/1918"); Christian Parisot, Modigliani, Catalogue Raisonné, Dessins, Aquarelles, vol. I, Livorno 1990, no. 45/17, illus. p. 316
Basel 1960 (Galerie Beyeler - according to Patani); Lugano 1975 (Museo Villa la Malpensata), Maestri Europei del XX secolo, Dalle collezioni d'arte private ticinesi, cat. no. 107 ("Odalisca 1917"); Verona/ Turin/ Venice 1984/ 1985 (Galleria dello Scudo/ Palazzo Reale/ Cà Vendrami Calergi), Modigliani, Dipinti e disegni, Incontri italiani 1900-1920, cat. no. 51, illus. ("Odalisca Blu (Béatrice Hastings), 1917", the motif also used for the exhibition poster); Verona 1988 (Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderne e Contemporanea, Palazzo A. Forti), Modigliani a Montparnasse, illus. p. 62 ("Odalisque blu (Beatrice Hastings), 1917-1918"); Düsseldorf/ Zurich 1990/ 1991 (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen/ Kunsthaus Zürich), Amedeo Modigliani, cat. no. 139 ("Odaliske in Blau"); Takasaky/ Tokyo/ Kyoto 1994 (Municipal Museum/ Museum Takashimaya/ Takashimaya Gallery of Art), Montmartre et Les Peintres, cat. no. 121, illus. p. 93; Bonn 2009 (Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland), Amedeo Modigliani, Ein Mythos der Moderne, cat. no. 93, colour illus. ("Die blaue Odaliske (Beatrice Hastings)"). - With several of the exhibition labels to the old frame backing card.