Museum Masters: Why the long face, Modigliani?

hubba hubba

Today we discussed one of my all-time favorite artists, Amedeo Modigliani. This fascinating artist, who was known as somewhat of a ladies man  (Andy Garcia played him in a movie version of the artist’s life…hubba hubba), was born to a Jewish family in Livorno, Italy in 1884. Modigliani was a bit of a sickly child and, as legend has it, once experienced such a high fever that he had a delirious dream. Upon waking from that dream, he announced to his waiting parents that he would grow up to be a great artist. And from then on, at the ripe old age of 11, Modigliani was enrolled in art classes and was nurtured as an artist by his family.  After Modigliani moved to Paris at the age of 22, he became a voracious artist – sometimes producing more than 100 drawings a day. A romantic at heart, Modigliani was very popular with the ladies, and had a penchant for dancing in the Parisian moonlight.

I wanted the children to think about the emotions not only of the artist creating the piece, but also the feelings that the subject might have been feeling at the time. We filled in a “bio sheet” for one of Modigliani’s portraits in which the children hypothesized about what the girl was thinking, what her name was, even her likes and dislikes. We looked at several examples of Modigliani’s iconic portraits and paid special attention to the elongated necks and faces the subjects have. These are my personal favorites…

Then, the children were given the opportunity to create a portrait in the style of Modigliani, utilizing those same characteristics. The results were breathtaking…

Here are a few ideas for at-home projects!

  • Make your own mask of a famous artist! Just search for your favorite artist online and locate a good picture of their face. Print it out on an 8×11” sheet and laminate at LakeShore learning center. Then cut out the eyeholes and around the edges…punch holes on each side and place a piece of string around. (Alternatively, you can glue a tongue depresser to the bottom of the mask for more of a masquerade feel…) You can turn yourself into Picasso or van Gogh in an instant!
  • While this isn’t Modigliani-specific, I can’t pass up the opportunity to let you know that every Sunday at the SFMOMA is free for children! From 11am – 3pm, children are admitted free of charge, and the museum offers family tours at 1pm every Sunday as well. Make a day of it!

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