Katherine Mansfield ; Hemingway ; D.H. Lawrence

Modigliani: A Life

Jeffrey Meyers, Author . Harcourt $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-15-101178-0

In this personality-driven new biography, Meyers (Katherine Mansfield ; Hemingway ; D.H. Lawrence ; etc.) turns his discerning eye to an artist whose "painting thrived on chaos," the French-Italian-Jewish bohemian Amedeo Modigliani. A contemporary of Picasso who detested cubism, "Modi," as he was known to his friends, was stricken with tuberculosis at 16. And while the incurable lung disease eventually led to his death at age 35, his rowdy and reckless lifestyle—replete with women, drugs and drink—surely contributed as well. Modigliani's tumultuous behavior, Meyers posits, was inextricably tied to his work. Meyers presents clear readings of Modigliani's paintings and sculptures, spelling out the influence of art nouveau, Lautrec, stylized African sculpture and mannerism on the artist's flat, vividly colored style. He also knowledgeably traces Modi's self-destructive rise from philosophy-reading child to posthumous star. Though Meyers tends to lapse into lengthy mini-biographies every time a new acquaintance of the artist's is introduced (an interlude about Modigliani's ex-lover Beatrice Hastings, for example, segues into a discussion of Hastings's ex-lover Katherine Mansfield) and frequently repeats his thesis (Modigliani was self-destructive!), he has painted a vibrant portrait of a deeply unhappy man. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/02/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
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