As Tate Modern prepares a brand new exhibition of his work, together with 12 of his well-known nudes, Louise Roddon explores the artist’s haunts in Montmartre and Montparnasse
In the body … Rue Gabrielle in Montmartre.
Photograph: Bruno De Hogues/Getty Images
Poor Amedeo Modigliani, what a tricky life he led. I’m considering this as I climb the steps to his final studio in Montparnasse. It’s a basic artist’s garret with peeling paint and poor lighting, and climbing the numerous flooring on a slim stone tread, leaves me winded. It wouldn’t have been simple for a person with superior tuberculosis. With Tate Modern about to stage its Modigliani exhibition, I’ve come to quantity eight Rue de la Grande-Chaumière, his remaining home earlier than he died tragically younger in 1920. At 35, he wasn’t only a sufferer of TB, however was struggling the toll of a lifetime’s enthusiasm for alcohol and medicines.
Amedeo Modigliani. Photograph: Quim Llenas/Cover/Getty Images
Political journalist Monia and her chef husband Nicolas now dwell right here, and I’m about to attempt one in all their new pop-up dinners themed round dishes from Modigliani’s favorite native restaurant, the now defunct Chez Rosalie. The studio is stylish and comfy, with stripped picket flooring, Tunisian knick-knacks and shaved Persian cat referred to as Jean-Michel Basquiat. Our night meal is extra banquet than artist-on-a-budget, with nibbles and prosecco, baked aubergine, slow-cooked coq au vin and rice pudding topped with rosewater ice-cream. There’s absinthe, too, whereas Monia, a dead ringer for one in all Modigliani’s serene fashions, regales us with tales. “Modigliani was a great womaniser,” she says. “He once mocked Picasso by asking: ‘Pablo, how do you make love to a cube?’”
To get a really feel for his impoverished Parisian world it is advisable divide your time between Montmartre and the grittier Montparnasse – the latter was the place artists migrated for reasonable hire. Despite the gentrification, there are nonetheless pockets of genuine bohemianism to be found right here.
Picture this … artists organising their stalls. Photograph: Alamy
On Monia’s tucked-away avenue stands the well-known artwork suppliers Sennelier, alongside two 19th-century artwork faculties. There’s Hôtel des Académies et des Arts too, the place we’re staying in rooms adorned with stencilled nudes. Opposite is the Académie Colarossi, the place Modigliani met his final lover, the 19-year-old artwork pupil Jeanne Hébuterne, in 1917, the 12 months he staged his solely solo exhibition, on the Berthe Weill gallery. After a short few hours, the police closed the present. The cause? A public outcry at his depiction of pubic hair.
Today, the academy’s present college students – primarily femmes d’un sure âge in slubby linen – await their mannequin’s arrival. In this massive easel-cluttered house there’s a odor of turps and oil paint, and an air of studied focus that’s extra leisure-time bourgeois than spirited bohemian.
Favourite hang-out … La Rotonde, the place the proprietor typically accepted work in lieu of cost. Photograph: Alamy
Even so, it’s good to see Montparnasse’s creative heritage thriving, as it’s within the pavement drinkers at La Rotonde, the sprawling nook cafe Modigliani and Picasso patronised on close by Boulevard du Montparnasse. The proprietor typically accepted work in lieu of cost.
Nowadays, it’s reproductions of Modigliani’s nudes reasonably than originals that line the partitions however the place is in any other case just about unchanged: a satisfying mishmash of purple plush banquettes and fringed golden desk lamps. Sitting exterior, people-watching with a pastis on a heat night helps you perceive why this was thought of a pole-position cafe.
Lunch at Moulin de la Galette … a dish of John Dory with carrot mousseline. Photograph: Louise Roddon
In 1906, good-looking and recent from Livorno, Modigliani settled amongst different émigré artists within the Montmartre studio commune of Le Bateau-Lavoir, the Shoreditch of its time. He rapidly modified his Italian gear for the Montmartre vagabond look – including an occasional bad-boy swagger to gatherings by stripping in public. The favorite gathering level for artists at the moment was Le Moulin de la Galette on Rue Lepic. This former windmill is now a sensible restaurant, the place you possibly can savour John Dory with carrot mousseline whereas wanting on the courtyard the place Renoir staged his 1876 masterpiece Bal du Moulin de la Galette.
Modigliani’s portray of his lover Jeanne Hébuterne. Photograph: www.scalarchives.com
The Sacré-Coeur basilica at the moment was underneath building, to not be accomplished till 1914, and although its neighbourhood is now tourist-trodden, round Rue Lepic and Rue Cortot you possibly can nonetheless escape them and recreate Modigliani’s world: the cobbled lanes, Paris’s solely winery draped on a hillside, and fairly walled gardens.
It’s a brief stroll from right here to the Moulin Rouge, which in Modigliani’s day was largely an outside venue dominated by a plaster elephant the place stomach dancers gyrated. Now it’s all glittering costumes and feather boas – to see the present whereas eating, it is advisable half with as much as €195.
Modigliani had offered little in his lifetime and was typically beset by doubts. But if his early demise from tubercular meningitis appears tragic, the drama was to proceed. Two days later, his distraught eight-months-pregnant lover, Jeanne Hébuterne, jumped to her loss of life from a fifth- flooring window at her dad and mom’ home. It was not till 1930 that her embittered household allowed her physique to relaxation alongside the artist’s in Père-Lachaise cemetery.
Modigliani solely achieved vital fame after his loss of life. Within 5 years, his work started to promote – rising in worth to a record-breaking $170m paid for a reclining nude in 2015. It’s poignant to think about this if you stand in entrance of his grave – a easy stone slab with the becoming epitaph, “Struck down by Death at the moment of glory.”
Way to go
Eurostar fares from London to Paris from £29 one-way. Doubles at Hotel des Academies et des Arts from £115. Modigliani is at Tate Modern from 23 November to 2 April