Born: July 12, 1884
Died: Jan. 24, 1920
Amedeo Modigliani, whose luminous, stylized nudes adorn the finest museums in the world, used hashish, cocaine, and alcohol and had many torrid affairs. Born into a well-to-do Jewish family in Italy, he suffered from typhoid fever at the age of fourteen, and raved in a delirium that he wanted to see the paintings in the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi in Florence . He contracted tuberculosis at 16 but managed to travel to Florence, Rome and Venice afterwards. It is in Venice that he first smoked hashish and became a devotee of Nietzsche and Baudelaire.
Beatrice Hastings, the pen name of Emily Alice Haigh (1879-1943) who lived with Modigliani as his mistress, reportedly shared his indulgences. Hastings was a journalist, a poetess, a circus artist, a follower of Blavatsky, talented spiritual medium… She wrote of Modigliani, “A complex character. A swine and a pearl”.
Arriving in Paris at the age of 22, while “serious” painters were exploring cubism, Modigliani stuck to a style influenced by Cézanne and African woodcarvings. Credited with being the first modern artist to include pubic hair in his paintings, he was charged with obscenity and the only one-man show staged during his lifetime was closed by police. He barely sold a painting and lived in poverty, dying of tuberculosis at the age of 35 (most reviewers also attribute his death to his drug use.)