Exhibition Review: Modigliani and Picasso, Tate Modern

Exhibition Review: Modigliani and Picasso, Tate Modern


Found myself available to accompany a friend who is a Tate member – read that as it would cost me nothing to attend. Exhibitions and my love of art are having skirmishes about prices. If you want to see two exhibitions in London just let go of almost forty pounds and forget investing in a catalogue. Modigliani was famous for painting nudes at that turn of the 20th century. I was aware of his work but never explored much around it. I knew he lived in Montmartre in Paris at an exciting time surrounded by some peers who would go on to eclipse him ie..Picasso.

As I wandered through the exhibition I wondered about the ages and histories of the young women who posed for his nudes and how relaxed they were which caused a stir due to the display of pubic hair…..the horror – I suppose back then. I recognised some of his influences such as Cezanne and Toulouse-Lautrec but was not alerted until I saw his own take with the following portraits – Portrait of Pedro, Diego Rivera and the Young Gypsy with the elongated and sharp jaw lines. Until then I was actually more impressed by the frames around the works. I liked the fact that you could see throughout the exhibition his development (trying out different styles) and especially with his sculptures which until the exhibition was not aware of, and how through time he perfected sculpting heads.

Modigliani was a passionate painter who only ever had one solo exhibition in his lifetime, endured through the war by the time you got to the Midi (South of France) phase when he is painting children – The Little Peasant is instantly recognisable – you get the foreboding sense that time would be catching up with him. You don’t just leave the city for the countryside back then for no reason, hard drinking and substance abuse will call time on you eventually, he died at the age of 35.


One of the most famous painters/artists in history, you literally cannot escape his long shadow, but frankly I’ve never really been a fan. After spending over an hour in Modigliani with still time to kill (Yeh for Tate Lates) we strolled into the Picasso exhibition, neither of us were excited or had planned to see it but seeing as I would never spend my own money to see his work here was opportunity. Yes, I have seen Guernica at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid and still nothing. It’s a Picasso, it’s a great painting blah, blah. But for a strange reason I have never sought out his work and when in front of it never lingered. I admit that the Girl before a Mirror, Le Reve and the Three Dancers are great works of art but I could never separate him from his relationship with Marie-Therese Walter which I still find unsettling till this day. I always felt he took advantage of her and can’t remove the feeling he used her and other women then casually threw her away like litter after taking what he needed for his art. It didn’t help that most of the exhibition seemed focused on the work completed during their relationship.

Modigliani who in comparison was a jobbing artist getting by on the odd commission and help from friends differs immensely from Picasso who was quite wealthy and renown in his own lifetime. The contrast is stark one suffered the other made others suffer.

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