To make a start on the project I have decided to do an analysis of the painting Madame Z (1917). I have identified a few key elements in Modigliani’s style of work that make his paintings distinctive. The first repetitive motif is Modigliani’s iconic stylized and elongated neck which refers to beauty standards of Africa. African Women wear metal rings around their neck, which gradually stretches the neck over time. Modigliani drew inspiration from African carvings which led him to portray the faces of his subjects as long and slender, echoing the physique of African masks.
Another signature motif Modigliani often uses is the slender almond shaped eyes, which portrays his subjects in a erotic and quite an animalistic manner; especially when filled with a black shade. Modigliani once said “When I know your soul, I will paint your eyes” Perhaps this explains why most of his models are depicted with hollow eyes while his wife’s eyes are carefully painted. I find this really interesting because Modigliani almost records the relationships he holds with this subjects through their very portraits. The eyes are often thought to be the window to the soul, sometimes we don’t get to experience people’s pure form and this, in my opinion, is exactly what he is trying to convey through his works. I plan to explore this within my work, I feel that portraiture will always have a direct relationship with identity and I would like to experiment with the covert side of that. Alongside this I would also like to incorporate an aspect of beauty standards by having a heavily made up model as the subject of my piece. Makeup in today’s society is something so powerful that it can almost act as a mask.
Make-up can only make you look pretty on the outside but it doesn’t help if you’re ugly on the inside. Unless you eat the make-up. - Audrey Hepburn