Amedeo Modigliani, Head, c.1911–12 Although Modigliani is known primarily as a painter, he fostered ambitions to become a sculptor early on in his career. Paul Alexandre, his friend and first faithful patron, engineered a meeting with Constantin Brancusi in 1909. This encouraged Modigliani to return to stone carving and for almost three years he virtually abandoned portrait painting. Some 25 sculptures survive from this formative period in his career. Most are limestone heads, some of which are rough-hewn, while others, such as Head, are highly finished. The majority of the sculptures are elongated, but some are squatter and more block-like.
During this period Modigliani also produced a number of sculpture-related drawings and paintings of heads and caryatids. Both the drawings and three-dimensional works have simple, elegant outlines and broken rhythms inspired by the sculpture of ancient Greece, medieval Italy and works from Africa and Asia. The latter were much in vogue in Paris at the time and accessible to Modigliani at the Musée Guimet and the ethnographic galleries of the Trocadéro. The attenuated forms and stylised features of the stone pieces and the flat, linear style of the drawings were to form the basis of the artist’s mature pictorial language. Their hieratic simplicity and serene equilibrium resurfaced in his later paintings.