Amedeo Modigliani, Beatrice Hastings in front of a door, 1915 Private Collection. Courtesy of Ivor Braka Ltd. Between 1914 and 1916 Modigliani’s chief muse, model and mistress was the South African born British poet and critic Beatrice Hastings who modelled for at least fourteen of the artist’s portraits. From 1914 Hastings was the Paris correspondent of the English periodical New Age, to which she contributed a column entitled ‘Impressions de Paris’ until 1916. Her relationship with Modigliani, boosted by alcohol and hashish, was tempestuous. However, in her portraits, with her rounded face, small nose and narrow, piercing eyes, Hastings often appears serene, giving no indication of her irascible personality or the stormy nature of their relationship.
Beatrice Hastings in Front of a Door was painted at the height of their affair and communicates the artist’s empathy with his model. The graceful long neck, the flushed cheeks and the asymmetrical treatment of the eyes announce Modigliani’s later mature signature style, without detracting from the obvious individuality of the sitter. Modigliani’s mastery in Hastings’s portraits – and those of his other friends and lovers – lay in his skill in retaining the essential likeness of an individual while couching it in his own restricted vocabulary of forms.