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1884

0-14 years

Amedeo Clemente Modigliani was born the 12th of July, 1884 in Livorno (Leghorn) Italy.

The 4th child of the Modigliani-Garsin family.

The Modigliani Garsin family was formed by Flaminio Modigliani, a wealthy Italian Jew of Romanian origin, and Eugénie Garsin, a Sefardic Jew from a renowned Sephardic family from Marseille.

The couple lived in a comfortably wealthy position the first years of marriage thanks to the exploitation of mines, wood and coal.

In 1873 their first son, Giuseppe, was born.
In 1874  Margeritha was born.
In 1878  Umberto was born.

From a comfortable situation, they had to declare bankruptcy in 1883, but the worst was yet to come, they still had to pay the dowry  of the marriage of Flaminio's sister, named Olimpia, that was granted with all the properties of the family (and that means everything.)

The same day Amedeo was born Olimpia's in-laws seized all the properties...... except for what was in/on the bed of Eugénie (who was giving birth to Amedeo) thanks to an old traditional law that says you can not take anything from the bed of a woman giving birth.

This story is not really verified but it has become a regularly accepted tale in the history of Modigliani, it is repeated in the family books by Eugenie, so it may probably be the truth.

They had to move from the natal house on Via Roma to a more modest house on Via Gambini.
The family had to survive on the low income that Eugenie was able to get from translations and later from private language lessons.

All the biographers centre the income of the family on Eugenie because Flaminio, his father, become less active than the furniture in the house... (This point shows a clear gap, because he lived one year more than his wife).


Amedeo had strong links with his grandfather, who went to live with them in 1886, and a less strong one with his mother (who was busy working to survive), biographers dont even mention his father.

Isaac Garsin his grandfather was an interesting influence on the young boy, he was a well cultured man with strong Sefarditic  traditions. (Some biographers even mention his use of magic spells and that sort of nonsense.)
Anther strong male influence was his uncle Amédée, who was some sort of rich uncle that came and went in the family books.

The only sure thing is that he was a normal school boy living a normal education.

If we give credit to his family sources he was since a little child interested in drawing and art, he was "the artist of the family."
In 1895 Modigliani suffered his first serious health problem, the diagnosis was pleurisy.

  1. Modigliani parents, source: LINK
  2. Natal House in Livorno,source: LINK
  3. Modigliani as a baby, source: LINK
  4. Modigliani Circa 1894?, Image source: LINK
  5. Modigliani Circa 1894?, Detail, Image source: LINK
  6. Modigliani at Liceo Guerrazzi 1890-1896 ?, Image source: LINK

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1898

14 years

Amedeo entered the "academie" of Gugliemo Micheli (Livorno 1866 - 1926), who was the favorite pupil of the renowned Fattori.

Today he is considered a lesser name, but in his time he created an academy in Livorno and had quite a lot of success.

He became renowned for his free line, the students had a  free hand so they did not have to suffer the rigid academic learning methods usually found in other academies all over Italy at that time.

Micheli´s school became important because it gave the young Modigliani the opportunity to experiment.

Now he could see the object as itself, to see the image as something made by the juxtaposition of volume and space.

Micheli gave a first order importance to the struggle between positive and negative space, and drawing--these methods were opposite to the Post Impressionist and Symbolist ones that were the main lines at that moment.

This way of looking and the influence it gave to the whole production of the artist can be clearly seen, the negative space against the figure.

  1. Modigliani as a student in Micheli's atelier during a visit of G. Fattori and wife, Image source: LINK
  2. Modigliani as student in Micheli atelier during a visit of G. Fattori and wife,detail, Image source: LINK

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1899

15 years

In July his oldest brother, Giuseppe Emanuele, is sentenced to 6 months in jail and a heavy fine for political reasons (he was already in jail since May 1898).

In August he suffers typhoid fevers.
Amedeo quits regular studies to devote himself totally to art, he meets Oscar Ghiglia at the Micheli academy.

Ghiglia (Livorno 1876 - Firenze 1945) 8 years older, became a very close friend and influence on the young Modigliani.
He represented the first free artist who decided to get his income from his brushes.
Although they lived totally disparate lives, Modigliani saw him as a model in his first formative years.
Their friendship was permanent all throughout Modigliani's life.

Oscar was a master in portraiture and "Nature morte" (still-life) and he was a true admirer of Cezanne and his pure use of color.
His love for old masters plus the color of Cezanne can be traced in the work that will later be developed in Modigliani.
Ghiglia influenced in him an admiration for the great portraiture from the glorious italian past.

  1. Giuseppe E. Modigliani , Image source: LINK
  2. oscar ghiglia, self portrait, Image source: LINK

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1900

16 years
Amedeo presents the first signs of tuberculosis, with a period of very serious illness.

(TB was at that time something similar to AIDS in the 90´s, it was a death sentence and also a social failing that had to be suffered secretly).

He probably (not for sure since there is no veridical data) suffered a surgical process to create a pneumothorax to save him.
The process was strongly painful and uncertain, but (if it really happened) he survived.

(This can explain his later terror of all medical treatment.)

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1901

17 years

Amedeo and Eugénie took a long trip to rest, visiting Naples, Capri, Amalfi, Rome, Florence and Venice.

This trip is documented through the letters he writes to Ghiglia and by his mother's diary.

In his letters to Oscar the monuments and works of art he describes are the main issue, especially the amazing new discoveries he makes after a close look at the great old masters.


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1902

18 years
He spends the winter in Rome, making copies of the great old masters in museums (none of them presently conserved.)

Then he travels to Florence in May to join the "Scuola Libera di Nudo" where Ghiglia was already a student:  the school was under the direction of Fattori (Livorno 1825- Florence 1908) himself.
Fattori was the great master of the " the Macchiaioli" (literally patches or spots)--the group had a strong influence all over the Tuscan region.

When Modigliani followed Ghiglia to Fattori's, the old man was mainly devoted to engravings.  He had recently survived financial troubles and hard fights with his fellows in the movement and was by now living a time of calm and peace.

Modigliani was according to some art historians interested in the Macchiaioli movement (a clear influence in some paintings, it is very easy to find) but more than anything Fattori was a liberation from his family circle and the opening of new ways to expand his art.
He probably shared a studio with Ghiglia who at the time was on the road to gaining serious attention, while Modigliani was a totally unknown youngster.
There is really not much data from this period, one thing for sure is that he contracted scarlet fever in 1902
He became interested in sculpture and made his first attempts to work on his first sculptures (we only have the word of others, there is no documentary data and nothing is conserved or even known from the period).
He made a first trip to Venice where he met during this year an Italian/Chilean painter named Manuel Ortiz de Zárate (the son of a Chilean composer living a very bohemian life style).
He talked to Modi about the lights of Paris and helped him to take the decision to follow the track of artists that was usual at that time.   "Go to Paris where all of the art world of today is taking place."

To become a famous sculptor.
  1. Modigliani at the studio of Gino Romitti in 1902, source: LINK.
  2. G. fattori self portrait, 1854, ,source: LINK.
  3. ortiz de zarate,self portrait, source: LINK.

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1903-1905

19-21 years
Finally Amedeo goes to Venice and enters the "Scuola Libera di Nudo", part of the Academia di Belle Arti di Venezia (the Venice fine arts academy.)

He enters not as a regular student on a complete basis, his option--"Scuola Libera di Nudo" (free nude school)--is a free program, mainly focused on drawing the nude "au naturel" and not on formal academic composition.

He enjoys a closer look at the great Venetian artists such as Carpaccio, Bellini, Titian, etc.

He lives in at least 3 locations, first on the Larga St. in 1903, then in an area known as Campiello Cento Pietre and finally in the Dorsoduro, very near the academy.
While in Venice, he started friendships with students who would later be the most renowned names in Italian modern art, as for example Boccioni, Marussi, Crepet, Mainella, etc.

The most important thing is that Venice is the first time he leaves the protective cocoon of his family.  Although he still lives on income from the family, he is for the first time on his own.
He remained in Venice until the first days of January 1906.  His uncle Amédeé who was the main support for his art (he was the rich uncle of the family) died in 1905 so the trip to Paris had to be delayed because of the lack of money.  Finally he received the money from his mother and brother and travelled to Paris from the Florence train station.


" Da Venezia ho ricevuto gli insegnamenti più preziosi della vita; da Venezia sembra di uscirmene adesso come accresciuto dopo un lavoro.."
Modigliani - Amedeo Modigliani qui operò nel 1905. A cura degli Amici dei Musei e dei Monumenti veneziani. 24.5.2002 "
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"From Venice I received the most valuable lessons in life, Venice made me grow to confront my work"

  1. Larga st. in Venice, Modigliani first studio in 1903. source: LINK.
  2. Modigliani at his arrival in Venice , source: LINK.
  3. Campiello Cento Pietre, second studio. source: LINK.
  4. Rio San Sebastiano studio in 1903, source: LINK.
  5. Modigliani in 1905, source: LINK.
  6. Rio San Sebastiano studio actually, source:LINK.
  7. plaque in the facade of modigliani studio, own image.

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