Just occasionally, it’s nice to be proved wrong.
I really didn’t want to go the Royal Academy to see Modigliani and his models. All elongated necks, odd-shaped faces, and out-of-proportion bodies. I knew what I liked – and I didn’t like Modigliani.
But I went.
Modigliani was born in 1884 in Livorno, on the Tuscan coast. His life is the classic riches-to-rags tale of so many artists. From a well-to-do Jewish family, he followed his dream and headed for the bright lights of Paris. And penury.
He was dogged by ill health for most of his life, and frequently went back to Italy to recuperate. But he always returned to Paris once recovered. Naturally (he was an artist, after all) he died young – aged just 35.
The paintings in the RA exhibition were just what I expected – almond eyes, oval faces, swan necks and stretched torsos. But the more I looked, the more I liked what I saw. The elongation was elegant. The eyes were mesmerising. The colours subtle and seductive.
I was entranced.
And yet art-as-marketing is something I increasingly find annoying. The Big Exhibitions at the RA and the National Gallery are often not worth the price – showing paintings you can see for free elsewhere, packing people in so densely it’s claustrophic, and probably dangerous.
But this was different. In the white cool of the upper floor at the Royal Academy, the crowds flowed smoothly and didn’t get in the way. And slowly, slowly, I was won over. His nudes were exquisite. His clothed models were elegant. And in Modigliani’s self-portrait, he looked sad and lost, and I recognised that look.
I was glad to have been proved wrong. I might even make a habit of it.