Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Guillaume Seated, 1916 Paul Guillaume was one of the most progressive art-dealers in Paris during the First World War. Ambitious and self-taught, he collected African sculpture and promoted avant-garde art, writing knowledgeably on both subjects. Guillaume met Modigliani in 1914 and became his exclusive dealer until 1916, when Paul Guillaume Seated was painted. This somewhat formal portrait gives a sense of the dealer’s self-assurance and sophistication, while intimating the artist’s slight disapproval of his sitter.
This work belongs to the series of portraits Modigliani painted between 1914 and 1916 of friends and dealers whom he knew and encountered daily in the cafés and studios of Montparnasse. By the time Modigliani moved to Montparnasse in 1909 the area was the leading artistic quarter of Paris, a crucible in which French and foreign artists, writers, musicians and critics worked side by side to create what we now call ‘Modern art’. Marcel Duchamp later referred to this gathering as ‘the first really international group of artists’. Modigliani’s cosmopolitan Italian-Jewish background meant that he was both an insider and an outsider in Montparnasse and it added to his broad cultural references spanning the history of art, literature and religion.