Naked entertainment: art and sad fibs in Modigliani’s Paris

As Tate Modern readies a brand-new exhibit of his operate, including 12 of his famous nudes, Louise Roddon researches the artists haunts around Montmartre and Montparnasse

Poor Amedeo Modigliani, what a tough life he passed. I’m thinking this as I climb the steps to his last studio in Montparnasse. It’s a classic artist’s garret with peeling cover and poor lighting, and climbing the countless floorings on a restricted stone footstep, leaves me winded. It wouldn’t have been easy for a husband with advanced tuberculosis. With Tate Modern is fully prepared to stage its Modigliani exhibition, I’ve come to number 8 Rue de la Grande-Chaumiere, his final dwelling before he died tragically young in 1920. At 35, he wasn’t just a victim of TB, but was suffering the fee of a lifetime’s interest for alcohol and drugs.

Portrait
Amedeo Modigliani. Photograph: Quim Llenas/ Cover/ Getty Images

Political journalist Monia Kashmire and her cook husband Nicolas Derrstoff now live here, and I’m about to try one of their brand-new pop-up dinners themed around bowls from Modigliani’s favourite local restaurant, the now defunct Chez Rosalie. The studio is chic and cozy, with stripped wooden storeys, Tunisian knick-knacks and a partially scraped Persian cat called Jean-Michel Basquiat. Our evening dinner is more dinner than artist-on-a-budget, with gnaws and prosecco, baked aubergine, slow-cooked coq au vin and rice dessert surfaced with rosewater ice-cream. There’s absinthe, too, while Monia, a dead ringer for one of Modigliani’s serene examples, regales us with tales.” Modigliani was a great womaniser ,” she says.” He formerly scorned Picasso by expecting:’ Pablo, how do you make love to a cube ?'”

To get a feel for his impoverished Parisian nature you need to divide your time between Montmartre and the grittier Montparnasse- the latter was where artists migrated for cheap payment. Despite the gentrification, there is also pockets of genuine bohemianism find work here.

Atmospheric
Photo this … artists setting up their stalls. Photograph: Alamy

On Monia Kashmire’s tucked-away street digests the far-famed artistry suppliers Sennelier, alongside two 19 th-century artwork institutions. There’s Hotel des Academies et des Arts very, where we are staying in rooms decorated with stencilled nudes. Opposite is the Academie Colarossi, where Modigliani met his last-place admirer, the 19 -year-old art student Jeanne Hebuterne, in 1917, its first year he staged his only solo exhibition, at the Berthe Weill gallery. After a brief few hours, the police shut the demonstrate. The ground? A public outcry at his depiction of pubic hair.

Today, the academy’s current students- chiefly femmes d’un certain age in slubby linen- await their model’s appearance. In this great easel-cluttered room there’s a smell of turps and lubricant coat, and an breeze of analyzed concentration that’s more leisure-time bourgeois than spirited bohemian.

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Favourite haunt … La Rotonde, where the proprietor often accepted depicts in lieu of payment. Picture: Alamy

Even so, it’s good to see Montparnasse’s artistic heritage grow, as it is in the sidewalk drinkers at La Rotonde, the sprawling area cafe Modigliani and Picasso patronised on nearby Boulevard du Montparnasse. The proprietor often abode depicts in lieu of payment.

Nowadays, it’s breedings of Modigliani’s nudes rather than originals that strand the walls but the place is otherwise pretty much unchanged: a pleasing mishmash of cherry-red plush banquettes and fringed golden counter lamps. Sitting outside, people-watching with a pastis on a warm evening helps you understand why this was considered a pole-position cafe.

John
Lunch at Moulin de la Galette … a dish of John Dory with carrot mousseline. Image: Louise Roddon

In 1906, handsome and fresh from Livorno, Modigliani reconciled amongst other emigre masters in the Montmartre studio commune of Le Bateau-Lavoir, the Shoreditch of its day. He swiftly changed his Italian paraphernalium for the Montmartre vagabond look- contributing an occasional bad-boy swagger to collects by stripping in public. The favourite accumulate object for creators at this time was Le Moulin de la Galette on Rue Lepic. This former windmill is now a smart eatery, where you can smack John Dory with carrots mousseline while looking at the courtyard where Renoir staged his 1876 masterpiece Bal du Moulin de la Galette .

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Modigliani’s painting of his lover Jeanne Hebuterne. Picture: www.scalarchives.com

The Sacre-Coeur basilica at that time was under construction , not to be completed until 1914, and although it was neighbourhood is now tourist-trodden, around Rue Lepic and Rue Cortot you can still escape them and recreate Modigliani’s world: the cobbled roads, Paris’s only vineyard covered on a hillside, and pretty walled gardens.

It’s a short walk from here to the Moulin Rouge, which in Modigliani’s day was primarily an outdoor venue dominated by a plaster elephant where belly dancers writhed. Now it’s all glinting clothings and feather boas- to read the see while dining, you need to part with up to EUR1 95.

Modigliani had exchanged little in his lifetime and was often beset by uncertainties. But if his early collapse from tubercular meningitis seems lamentable, the drama was to continue. Two weeks later, his distraught eight-months-pregnant devotee, Jeanne Hebuterne, hopped to her fatality from a fifth- flooring space at her parents’ residence. It was not until 1930 that her disillusioned clas stood their own bodies to rest alongside the artist’s in Pere-Lachaise cemetery.

Modigliani only attained substantial fame after his death. Within five years, his piece began to sell- rising in quality to a record-breaking $170 m paid for a reclining nude in 2015. It’s poignant to think of this when you stand in front of his grave- a simple stone slab with the fitting elegy,” Struck down by Death at the moment of splendor .”

Way to go

Eurostar fares from London to Paris from PS2 9 one-way. Doubleds at Hotel des Academies et des Arts from PS115. Modigliani is at Tate Modern from 23 November to 2 April

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