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Amedo Modigliani (July 12, 1884 - January 24, 1920)

Amedeo Modigliani, whose luminous, stylized nudes adorn the finest museums in the world, used hashish, cocaine, and alcohol and had many torrid affairs. Born into a well-to-do Jewish family in Italy, he suffered from typhoid fever at the age of fourteen, and raved in a delirium that he wanted to see the paintings in the Palazzo Pitti and the Uffizi in Florence. He contracted tuberculosis at 16 but managed to travel to Florence, Rome and Venice afterwards. It is in Venice that he first smoked hashish and became a devotee of Nietzsche and Baudelaire.

Arriving in Paris at the age of 22, while “serious” painters were exploring cubism, Modigliani stuck to a style influenced by Cézanne and African woodcarvings. Credited with being the first modern artist to include pubic hair in his paintings, he was charged with obscenity and the only one-man show staged during his lifetime was closed by police. He barely sold a painting and lived in poverty, dying of tuberculosis at the age of 35 (most reviewers also attribute his death to his drug use.)

According to an article in the Daily Mail written in 2015 when Modigliani's "Reclining Nude" (pictured) sold at auction for £113 million:

An allowance from his mother meant he could afford the necessities of life, but Modigliani swiftly found he could not afford something for which he developed a strong taste — hashish, or cannabis resin. There is no doubt the young painter was addicted to the drug, although art historians argue over how much influence it had on his work.

One evening, when he was immensely stoned, he sketched, for the first time, a woman with a swan-like neck. Those long necks would become one of his hallmarks, and there is a hint of such a neck in the Reclining Nude.

Beatrice Hastings, the pen name of Emily Alice Haigh (1879-1943) who lived with Modigliani as his mistress, reportedly shared his indulgences. Hastings was a journalist, a poetess, a circus artist, and a follower of spiritualist Helena Blavatsky. She wrote of Modigliani, “A complex character. A swine and a pearl.”

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