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Buste de Manuel Humbert
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Buste de Manuel Humbert
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About the item

The elegant gentleman depicted in this portrait is Manuel Humbert Estève (1890-1975), a Spanish landscape painter from Barcelona whom Modigliani met in Paris.   Manuel, or “Manuello” as his Italian friend called him, was one of a select group of artistic personalities living in Montparnasse whom Modigliani immortalized in 1916.  The present picture is one of two portraits of Manuel from that year (see fig. 1).  Of the two works, the present work is the more intimate, featuring a close-up of the sitter’s face and paying particular attention to the depth and soulfulness of his eyes.  More so than most of the portraits that Modigliani painted of his male acquaintances, this picture is rendered with a sensuality that he usually reserved for the sultry depictions of the women in his life, like Almaïsa (see fig. 2).  Manuello was a struggling painter and his life experiences working in bohemian Paris during the First World War mirrored Modigliani's. Very likely Modigliani identified with this young man whose Latin background and dark good looks were not unlike his own (see fig. 3).  But regardless of the feelings Modigliani held for his sitter, the resulting image is a truly seductive portrait of his young colleague, whose own personal aesthetic was once described by fellow Spaniard Joan Miró as “delicious and sensual.”\n\n“More than anything else, Modigliani was a portrait painter” the historian Walter Schmalenbach wrote in his well-known essay on the artist’s portraiture, in which he considered Modigliani to be at the forefront of this genre in the 20th century.  Schmalenbach explained that the artist’s approach to portrait painting was one of cool distance and keen insight, a combination which enabled him to render the “likeness” of his sitter:  “They are unequivocally portraits and, contrary to all the artistic precepts of the age, they possess a documentary value. Even a portrait such as that of Max Jacob [see fig. 5], for all its formalization and stylization, is still a likeness – incontestably so, since it is actually based on a photograph.  At the same time, however the sitter’s individuality is reduced to the extent that the stylization creates the effect of a mask.  This brings African masks to mind, but here there is nothing alien, mysterious or demonic about the mask; it masks nothing.  On the contrary, the sitter has sacrificed to the form some of his individuality, his emotions, his affective life, just as the painter, for his part, keeps emotion well away from that form.  He looks at this fellow man with great coolness.  The warmth of the painting lies solely in its colour.  This combination of cool detachment with painterly warmth lends the painting – like many other works by the artist – its own specific 'temperature' " (Walter Schmalenbach, “The Portraits” L’ange au visage grave (exhibition catalogue), Musée du Luxembourg, Paris, 2002-03, pp. 42-43).\n\nSimilar to his other portraits from 1916, including those of Max Jacob, Jean Cocteau (see fig. 4), Chaim Soutine (see fig. 5), and Moïse Kisling, this picture draws from an assortment of aesthetic precedents.   Montparnasse was known for its ethnic eclecticism, and the artists who lived and worked on the Left Bank were particularly receptive to the influences of other cultures.  For example, the aesthetic of African tribal masks, a favorite of Picasso in the early 1900s, had a profound effect on Modigliani’s figures.  As seen in the present work, Modigliani renders the facial features with a strong sense of line and contour, accentuating the linearity of the sharp jaw line, the curvature of the lips, and the individual arch of the eyebrows. The face takes on a mask-like, architectural rigidity, highly sculptural and well-defined.  Although Modigliani would increasingly hollow out the eyes of his figures to enhance this effect, as he did in his portrait of Chaïm Soutine, he designates Manuel’s eyes as the central focus of this carefully structured portrait.\n\nAnother artistic influence on this picture is the work of Cézanne.   Modigliani famously admired Cézanne’s highly geometric approach to pictorial perspective and incorporated the Post-Impressionist’s techniques and earth-toned color palette into his art.  Tamar Garb has written about Modigliani’s receptivity to the work of Cézanne, and her analysis can be readily applied to the present work:   “Never seamless, his figures appear to have been assembled on the picture plane, stitched and pieced together in paint, their parts demarcated and defined in line.  Asymmetry and curious disjunctions, most markedly expressed in the frequently mismatched eyes, while posting a subject that is divided and riven from within – literally spilt apart – are nevertheless subsumed in a fabricated, precariously balanced pictorial whole.  The integrated subject of Modigliani’s portraits links him to a world before Cubism, most notably that of his mentor Paul Cézanne, with his famous spatial disjunctions and decomposition of the world of visual sensation, his breaking apart of the structure of things so that their very physical makeup could be conveyed in an accumulation of separate color patches, each visible on the paint surface” (Tamar Garb, “Making and Masking, Modigliani and the Problematic of Portraiture,” Modigliani, Beyond the Myth (exhibition catalogue), The Jewish Museum, 2004, p. 46).\nThis work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Amedeo Modigliani being prepared by Marc Restellini under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.\nFig. 1, Amedeo Modigliani, Manuel Humbert, 1916, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne\nFig. 2, The artist in his studio, circa 1917.\nFig. 3,  Amedeo Modigliani, Almaïsa, 1916, oil on canvas\nFig. 4, Amedeo Modigliani, Jean Cocteau, 1916, oil on canvas, The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, Inc.\nFig, 5, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaïm Soutine, 1916, oil on canvas, Private Collection, Paris\n COMPS:\nFig 1: COMP: 116NY8125\nFig 2: COMP: 118NY8125\nFig 3: COMP: 115NY8125\nFig 4: COMP: 114NY8125\nFig 5: COMP: 117NY8125\nSigned Modigliani (lower right) and inscribed Manuello (upper right)
US
NY, US
US

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Amedeo Modigliani

dimensions

26 by 20 ¼ in.

exhibition

London, Alex. Reid & Lefevre (The Lefevre Gallery), The Tragic Painters, 1938, no. 3 London, Alex. Reid & Lefevre (The Lefevre Gallery), The School of Paris, 1938, no. 45 New York, Bignou Gallery, Twentieth Century French Painters and Picasso, 1939, no. 11 New York, Bignou Gallery, A Selection of 19th and 20th Century French Painters, 1939, no. 24 Beverly Hills, Modern Institute of Arts, Modern Artists in Transition, 1948, no. 28 or 29 Beverly Hills, Roy J. Goldengerg Galleries, 1948, no. 411 Palm Beach, Society of the Four Arts; Coral Gables, Lowe Gallery, Amedeo Modigliani, 1954, no. 18 Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum, Works of Modigliani, 1954 San Antonio, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, Amedeo Modigliani, 1957, no. 5 Pasadena Art Museum, 20th Century Italian Art, 1958 Atlanta, Art Association, The Art of Amedeo Modigliani, 1960, no. 7 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts; Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Modigliani: Paintings and Drawings, 1961, no. 10 New York, The Solomon Guggenheim Museum, Modigliani, Tokyo, Daimaru Department Store; Osaka, Daimaru Department Store, Modigliani: Love and Nostalgia for Montparnasse, 1979, no. 7 Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Amedeo Modigliani, 1981, no. 36 Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art; Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery, Modigliani, 1985, no. 65 New York, The Jewish Museum; Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Art and Jewish Life in Italy, 1989-90 Lugano, Museo d’arte moderna, Amedeo Modigliani, 1999 New York, The Jewish Museum; Washington, D.C.; Ottawa, Ontario Art Gallery, The Phillips Collection, Modigliani: Beyond the Myth, 2004-05

literature

Life Magazine, New York, 1948, illustrated Annual report for the Department of History, Science and Art for the Fiscal Year ended June 30, 1952, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1952, pp. 200 and 811 Los Angeles County Museum Bulletin of Art Division, Los Angeles, Winter 1954, illustrated p. 14 Fels Florent, L'art vivant, Geneva, 1956, illustrated p. 107 Ambrogio Ceroni, Amedeo Modigliani, dessins et sculptures, avec suite du catalogue illustré des peintures, Milan, 1965, no. 179, illustrated Gaston Diehl, Modigliani, Lugano, 1969, p. 44 Ambrogio Ceroni and Leone Piccioni, I dipinti di Modigliani, Milan, 1970, no. 135, illustrated p. 94 J. Lanthemann, Modigliani, Barcelona, 1970, no. 175, illustrated p. 207 Jacques Lassaigne, Tout Modigliani, la peinture, Paris, 1982, illustrated p. 40 Osvaldo Patani, Amedeo Modigliani, Catalogo Generale, Dipinti, Milan, 1991, no. 136, illustrated p. 150 Christian Parisot, Modigliani catalogue raisonné, peintures, dessins, aquarelles, vol. II, Livorno, 1991, no. 7, illustrated p. 107

provenance

Libaude, Paris Bignou Gallery, New York (by 1939 and until at least 1943) Zeppo Marx, Los Angeles James McHugh, Los Angeles Mr. and Mrs. William Wyler, Los Angeles Acquired from the above in 1951

signedDate

Signed Modigliani (lower right) and inscribed Manuello (upper right)

time_period

Painted in 1916.

consignmentDesignation

Property from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art sold to Benefit the Acquisitions Fund

creator_nationality_dates

1884 - 1920


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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