Early Modernism: 1900-1920 From The Moderna Museet Collection
(Exhibition 2011, Moderna Museet Malmö)
In this exhibition, we highlight works from Moderna Museet’s rich collection of early 20th century art, including artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Wassily Kandinsky, Siri Derkert, Sonia Delaunay, Edvard Munch, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and many others.
This is easily one of my favorite topics, not only because Amedeo Modigliani was Italian and had been famously portrayed in a couple of movies (and looked a bit like Colin Firth), it was also because the art ‘movement’ he represented was not a movement at all.
He belonged the the School of Paris, a group of artists in the early 20th century who used to hang out in Montmartre and Montparnasse (Picasso, Chagall, Mondrian included) that exchanged ideas (or traded insults) on art. They primarily frequented the cafe, La Rotonde in Montparnasse, pre-World War I, and did their things together.
The idea of a group of artists coming together in a casual setting appealed to me because I do often feel like great things can emerge from discussions. I’m not an artist but I often find myself talking to my fellow MoMAClass friends, discussing various things, right after the MoMA lectures on Saturdays. So it’s a direct experience that I can relate to with the people in the School of Paris. And although we may not come up with grand ideas or works of art, there are these discussions that inspire me and stay with me long after they’ve ended.
But there was also a matter of Modigliani’s art that was described as “simplified, elegant with elongated lines and oval shapes”. His art, though mainly made up of portraits, is much classier than the works of other artists at the time, and I really like that elegance that his paintings carried. His shading technique was also something to marvel at because, despite the rough brushstrokes, we could see that he took his coloring very seriously. And the intimacy that his paintings showed on canvas was simply stunning!
We also heard about the neo-classical works of Picasso and Leger, the so-called “return to order”, after the Great War. Although it was interesting to see how these artists depicted classical themes, it seemed to be mostly at odds with the ‘modern art’ methods that they applied on the paintings. Which is why, I think, I kept coming back to admiring Modigliani’s works instead of finding out more about the post-WWI neo-classic paintings.