Modigliani at the Tate Modern

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View of the Shard from the Tate Modern, February 2018.

On Friday last week I had one of those fab unexpected moments. A friend, who I hadn’t seen for a ridiculously long time because we both have fairly busy working lives, contacted me to see if I was interested in going to see the Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern. I was, had no other commitments.

After a bracing walk along the Thames south bank we decided to just head to the Tate Modern. It was with a bit of a jolt that I realised I hadn’t been there for such a long time – when they first opened up the new tank part of the extension. My friend took me up to the observation deck and we watched as the grey twilight crept over the London skyline. We didn’t stay long because of the icy winds, but I will most definitely be making my way up there again for the astonishing views of London. Tip for tourists on a budget: the Tate Modern is free (but donations are always welcome).

We then decided to dine at the restaurant, which was surprisingly good and reasonably priced. Not cheap, but given the quality of the food and matched wines (if you choose that option) really quite incredible for a restaurant in an art gallery. We also had friendly and attentive service; very human. Highly recommended, although if you’re a Tate member your discount doesn’t apply there. We took the time to catch up properly.

We then headed down to the exhibition.

I remember my father liking Modigliani’s art, but I must say that I knew very little about his work. I knew he painted a lot of portraits of men and women with elongated faces, and a lot of nude women.

The exhibition features Modigliani’s work mostly from when he was in Paris in 1906 when he was 21 years old. A lot of the paintings dated from the Great War years and yet covers a fair range of his styles. Modigliani died young, in January 1920, so his output is really quite astonishing. He also only ever had one solo exhibition during his lifetime.

I was fascinated by how he managed to capture moments of expression in many of his portraits. Little glimpses into human behaviour in otherwise quite sparse portraits in terms of detail. He used a few of the same models and the exhibition groups a few of these together, along with photographs of the models, and that enabled comparisons.

There was a room devoted to some of his sculptures, which were interesting in that they showed his influences – Cycladic, south-east Asian, and perhaps the giant heads from Easter Island – but otherwise left me cold. I found his paintings to be generally warmer and more human.

I liked that the exhibition opened and closed with self-portraits that captured the changes in him physically and in terms of his standing as an artist and man in just a few short years.

The exhibition runs until 2 April 2018.