I visited both these exhibitions yesterday as preparation/inspiration for the assignment in Unit 4 and thought it might be useful to compare the two exhibitions in one post rather than complete separate posts.
Both exhibitions showed how the artist evolved whilst tackling portraits – Modigliani in terms of his artistic style with a move from more rounded forms (as in The Cellist, 1909 here and The Beggar of Livorno, 1909) to a more modernist flatter form often with black voids for the eyes (influence of cubism). Whereas, Cezanne seemed to me to evolve more in the way he applied the paint and his technique rather than his style of depicting the sitter – from using a palette knife with thickly applied paint (as in his Uncle Dominique series, such as Uncle Dominique in a Turban, 1866-7) to using a brush with dabs and a broken application of colour (as in Boy in a Red Waistcoat 1888-90).
Modigliani’s portraits tended to fill the frame with the majority having little or no background to put the sitter into a context (as in Max Jacob c1916-17), whereas Cezanne’s portraits often included a background, giving the viewer more information about the sitter or their environment (as in Gustave Geffroy, 1895-6, where the subject is a writer and is sitting at a desk with papers in a library). Of course, this may be because Cezanne was more interested in developing his technique in the application of the paint and therefore enjoyed including the interior and other still-life objects in contrast to Modigliani who was trying to capture the essence of the sitter.
Modigliani seems to me to have settled on a certain style to this portraits with often voids for eyes, angular long necks suggesting elegance (especially but not exclusively for the females subjects) , flatter areas of colour, etc, In contrast, Cezanne seems to be continually changing and adapting his technique. I assume this was because Modigliani was producing the portraits for clients and Cezanne was just using the sitter as an object to explore the application of paint and colour relationships.
In the Modigliani exhibition a whole room is devoted to the female nude and this brought to the fore my reading of both Ways of Seeing by John Berger and The Nude by Gill Saunders (see previous posts). Is it the case of an active educated male artist exploiting the lesser-educated passive female worker or should we accept that the female model made an informed decision to pose and earn money. I think this is something I will struggle with everything I see a nude until I can come to some form of resolution for myself (if that every happens!).
One thing which did give me an insight when walking round the Cezanne exhibition was even through he was a very accomplished artist, you could often see things wrong in his proportions (such as the size of the head in Portrait of a Man, 1898-1900), or in the positioning of limbs (such as the size and way the legs are attached to the body as in Victor Choquet, 1877). In a way this teaches me that I need to stop obsessing about little details/imperfections in my own art and step back to look at the success of the overall image.