Collection Comparisons: Modigliani’s Portraits

In the Collection Comparisons series, we pair one work from Gauguin to Picasso: Masterworks from Switzerland with a similar work from the Phillips’s own permanent collection.

Collection Comparison_Modigliani

(left) Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of Mrs. Dorival, c. 1916. Oil on canvas, 24 x 15 in. Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel © Mark Gisler, Müllheim (right) Amedeo Modigliani, Elena Povolozky, 1917. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 19 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1949

After moving to Paris in 1906, Amedeo Modigliani painted portraits of friends and artists, including Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo. He earned a reputation for thoughtful character studies of his contemporaries in Montparnasse. Many of these works reflect Modigliani’s interest in sculpture, expressed in the contours of the sitter’s features in Portrait of Mrs. Dorival, on view in Gauguin to Picasso. The model, American-born Blanche Antonia James, was the wife of Comédie Française actor Georges Édouard Lemarchand, known as Dorival. A collector, Dorival owned paintings by Monet, Renoir, Utrillo, Modigliani, and others.

Like Karl Im Obersteg, Duncan Phillips purchased a portrait of one of Modigliani’s patrons, Elena Povolozsky, who was given this painting by the artist. This work is on view in an exhibition of works from The Phillips Collection at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

Congenial Spirits: Italia

(left) Amadeo Modigliani, Elena Povolozky, 1917. Oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 19 1/8 in. The Phillips Collection; (middle) Giorgio Morandi, Still Life, 1953. Oil on canvas, 8 x 15 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection; (right) Giorgio Morandi, Still Life, 1950. Oil on canvas, 14 1/8 x 18 5/8 in.The Phillips Collection. Photo: Amy Wike

This small gallery pays tribute to some of the Italian artists in the Phillips’s permanent collection. Modigliani, Morandi, and De Chirico greet elevator riders as the doors open on the second floor of the Phillips house. 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy—Washington celebrates all summer with La Dolce DC.

Meryle Secrest, author of Modigliani: A Life, gives her perspective on the painter behind this portrait of Elena Povolozky (at left) next Thursday, May 19.