Regular visitors to The Courtauld Gallery may have noticed that Modigliani’s Female Nude is back on the gallery walls after its loan to The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Russia for an exhibition, so it seems like a good opportunity to look into this painting further for this edition of ‘Spotlight on a Masterpiece’
Female Nude was rather controversial when first exhibited.
Although the pose itself was quite typical of what was being shown in the Salon in Paris at that time, the taboo of Modigliani’s explicit depiction of pubic hair in his nudes led to the police closing his first and only solo exhibition during his lifetime, at Berthe Weill’s gallery in 1917, on grounds of indecency.
Many of Amedeo Modigliani’s contemporaries found his combination of avante-garde and conventional methods an affront to the grand tradition of European painting.
The woman’s simplified features and elongated face derive from Modigliani’s knowledge of non-western art such as African, Oceanic and Egyptian sculpture.
His handling of paint was much rougher than the smooth, highly finished surfaces of most Salon nudes at that time.
In this painting, the paint is applied in short stabbing strokes, wet-in-wet, so that the brush and scratch marks are clearly visible particularly in the way that the model’s flowing hair is accentuated.