Amedeo Modigliani, Female Nude, c.1916 © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London Modigliani’s series of grand nudes dates from between 1916 and 1919. When a group of them was first shown in 1917, in what was to be the artist’s only solo exhibition during his lifetime, they caused a minor scandal. One nude, visible through the gallery window, drew a crowd of onlookers who leered at, or were shocked by, the glorious expanse of flesh. The local police chief sent an officer to order that the nudes be removed and the exhibition was temporarily disrupted. Despite this inauspicious beginning, Modigliani’s nudes are among his most famous paintings – utterly different from his images of his last muse Jeanne Hébuterne or of the friends who modelled for his portraits.
Modigliani’s Female Nude is perhaps the most exceptional of all his nudes. While Modigliani has depicted the woman’s body in a naturalistic manner, her elongated face, her simplified and harmonious features are reminiscent of the geometric and perfected forms of African statuary which the artist knew and admired. Painted in late 1916, it is unusual in that it is not part of a series as are his other nudes. Instead, it is interspersed among portraits of his friends and lovers. It is also one of only a small number of seated nudes. The majority of Modigliani’s nudes were portrayed in a reclining or sleeping position.