Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920): Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz4/27/2021, 8:43:50 AM
Amedeo Modigliani (1884–1920): Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz, 1916, Oil on canvas, 81.3 x 54.3 cm., Art Institute of Chicago. This painting depicts Modigliani's friend, the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, standing alongside his seated wife Berthe. Modigliani and Lipchitz had each moved to France at a young age, were both from Jewish backgrounds, and became close friends who frequented the same artistic circles in Paris. Despite their commonalities, there were marked differences: Lipchitz exemplified artistic industriousness while Modigliani was given to bohemian dissolution. Before painting Jacques and Berthe Lipchitz Modigliani made a series of preparatory drawings, of which five survive: two of Lipchitz, two of Berthe, and one of them together in the resolved composition. Lipchitz described the painting's development years later: "In 1916, having just signed a contract with Leonce Rosenberg, the dealer, I had a little money. I was also newly married, and my wife and I decided to ask Modigliani to make our portrait. "My price is ten francs a sitting and a little alcohol, you know," he replied when I asked him to do it. He came the next day and made a lot of preliminary drawings, one right after the other, with tremendous speed and precision.... Finally a pose was decided upon— a pose inspired by our wedding photograph. The following day at one o'clock, Modigliani came with an old canvas and his box of painting materials, and we began to pose. I see him so clearly even now— sitting in front of his canvas which he had put on a chair, working quietly, interrupting only now and then to take a gulp of alcohol from the bottle standing nearby.... By the end of the day he said "Well, I guess it's finished." Lipchitz was uncomfortable accepting the painting for merely ten francs, and made excuses in order for Modigliani to continue working on the portrait. "You know", I said, "we sculptors like more substance." "Well," he answered, "if you want me to spoil it, I can continue." The portrait occupied Modigliani for nearly two weeks, "probably the longest time he ever worked on one painting."