Saturday, August 23, 2014

Modigliani and Braque

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) and Georges Braque (1882-1963): a study in contrasts, and yet . . . this world may be big enough for both. 

Alex Danchev, in Georges Braque: A  Life (New York: Arcade, 2005), gives us a fresh perspective from Braque's point of view, filling in gaps as he goes.

On the mischievous side, Danchev delights in poking fun at Braque's fellow artist, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), but this effort sometimes inspires the opposite of the intended effect: making Picasso seem at times more vibrant by default.
One of Braque's existential turning points came with the Great War of 1914-1918. He went off to the French Army, was promoted to sub-lieutenant in November 1914. He was badly wounded in the head and "left for dead" in no man's land during a horrendous assault on German trenches near Vimy Ridge in May 1915. He barely survived, and it took a substantial period of recovery before he could resume painting. (See Danchev, Georges Braque, especially pages 122-126). 
"Modi" Modigliani, an Italian national with Sephardic ancestry, had no interest in getting into the war, and while living in France, he didn't have to. He also had serious health issues (tuberculosis being the most salient), not made any better by his wild Bohemian lifestyle. Though he succumbed in 1920 at age 35, he survived the Great War. However: 

'Many of Modi's friends -- the writers Salmon, Apollinaire and Cendrars; the artists Gaudier, Derain, Vlaminck, Zadkine, Kisling and Soutine -- joined the army, and most of them went straight into combat . . . The Delta artists Maurice Drouard and Henri Doucet, Gaudier and Apollinaire, the Italian Umberto Boccioni, the Germans Franz Marc and August Macke were all killed in the war.'  ~ Jeffrey Meyers, Modigliani: A Life. Duckworth Overlook, 2008; first published in 2006, page 131.

Picasso, a Spanish national, also refrained from diving into the Great War (Spain remained neutral during the conflict). But still, from his point of view, too, everything changed in the 1914-1918 years, including his friendship with Braque. As he rather wickedly put it: "On 2 August 1914 I took Braque and [André] Derain to the station at Avignon. I never saw them again" (quoted in Danchev, Georges Braque, page 121).   

Today's Rune: Growth. (Source for sketch at top of post: "A Modigliani 005 Wiki Commons Baster78 uploaded 2006").  

1 comment:

the walking man said...

It's interesting when one realizes the great turning point in art immediately after WWI. Almost like an age of lost innocence.