Spending his youth in Italy, Modigliani studied Renaissance art in Livorno and moved to Paris in 1906. In spite of his somewhat reserved and introverted disposition, he eventually became acquainted with artists such as Juan Gris, Gino Severini, and Pablo Picasso.
Upon meeting Picasso, who was garbed in his trademark workman's attire, Modigliani remarked that possessing artistic genius was no excuse for dressing poorly. Picasso, on the other hand, was noted to have said that Modigliani was the only person he knew who really knew how to dress.
Modigliani lived in Le Bateau-Lavoir, an artistic community in Montmartre, where Picasso also had a studio. Picasso not only sat for Modigliani, but also owned several of his paintings, including The Girl with the Brown Hair.
In 1915, Amedeo Modigliani painted this portrait of his fellow artist Pablo Picasso. While the two artists shared an artistic rivalry, theirs was also a relationship of mutual admiration.
This duality can be seen in this portrait. The uneven, two-toned face of the subject seems to suggest an inner conflict within the artist, and also between artist and subject.
Modigliani painted several portraits, and in each one, his work conveyed the personality of each model, while adhering to his distinct and very recognizable style. In most works by Modigliani, the faces are elongated, with darkened, almond-shaped eyes.
Here, in this portrait of Picasso, the eye shape is the same, but the head is more rounded, symbolising Modigliani's respect for his fellow artist's intelligence. This is even written subtly in the corner with the word, "savoir," meaning "to know," in French.
In time, the friendship between the two artists eroded. Picasso disapproved of Modigliani's lifestyle and with this, they eventually drifted apart. Amedeo Modigliani continued painting and creating his distinctive works of art, but sadly, found little success during his short life. He passed away in 1920, destitute at the age of 35, achieving posthumous success. To this day, his influence and reputation continue to reach new heights.