Nude on a Cushion, or Nu Couche, is one of the most famous nude paintings by Amedeo Modigliani. Depicting a naked woman relaxing on a blue cushion, the painting is part of a Modigliani reclining nude art series. In the painting, the woman gazes directly at the viewer. She hints at seduction, with the female nude slightly tilting her head. Modigliani's oil painting shocked art audiences. The direct and sexual nature of the artwork meant it stood out, even in the Bohemian atmosphere of early 20th Century Paris.
The formal grace of Modigliani's reclining nude art references Renaissance oil paintings. Titian's famous nude paintings Venus of Urbino and Danae are obvious inspirations for Modigliani's female nude art. Meanwhile, his surreal elongation of faces, necks, and figures references Mannerism paintings. Titian's famous nudes draw on his early education at Micheli’s Art School in Venice, an institution steeped in classical Italian Renaissance art.
Amedeo Modigliani’s paintings of this period are bold and brave, with little suggestion of background or setting. This made the full-frontal nudity of Nu Couche, or Nude on a Cushion, even more shocking. The artist depicts the female body with a detached sense of objectivity. While Modigliani's nude paintings did not set out to intentionally provoke, neither did they shy away from sexuality or nudity.
Created between 1916 and 1919, Modigliani's famous nude painting was commissioned by the art dealer Leopold Zborowski. Zborowski paid for most of Modigliani’s models, although art historians are unsure of the woman's identity in Nu Couche. When Amedeo Modigliani's nude portraits were first displayed in Paris, the exhibition at Galerie Berthe Weill was shut down for public obscenity. This was the artist's first and last public exhibition. It was not until after his premature death in 1920 that the 20th century art lovers came to appreciate his famous nude paintings.
Zborowski was a Polish poet and art dealer who formed a close friendship with Modigliani. Indeed, Modigliani painted three portraits of Portrait of Leopold Zborowski, with one selling for just under $1,500,000 at Sotheby’s auction house in 2003. Zborowski became Modigliani’s primary art dealer and confidante during his later years. He helped the artist arrange numerous exhibitions and allowed Modigliani to use his house as a studio.
While painting at Zborowski’s home, Amedeo Modigliani gave his models considerable freedom to choose their poses. His wife, Jeanne Hebuterne, appears in many of his paintings during this period, although never in any of his painted nudes.
The painting now hangs in a private collection. It realized a sale price of over $170,000,000 at a 2015 Christie’s sale, making it a record selling price for a Modigliani painting. The buyer was Chinese businessperson Liu Yiqian. Another Modigliani painted nude, also called Nu Couche and dated 1917, sold at Sotheby's in 2018 for $157m.
As Modigliani’s primary art dealer, Zborowski amassed a considerable fortune selling and commissioning Modigliani's art, especially his nude paintings. Despite this, he lost much of his wealth during the Great Depression and died destitute in Paris in the 1930s. Zborowski’s considerable Modigliani art collection was sold and is now dispersed globally.
Today, Amedeo Modigliani is one of the most famous 20th-century Italian artists. His oil paintings, associated with Expressionism art and Cubism painting, are highly sought after by art collectors and the general public. His scandalous yet groundbreaking famous nude paintings reinvigorated the genre as a leading component of Modern Art.
For this reason, famous nude paintings by Amedeo Modigliani are popular reproductions. Replica art of nude and famous paintings of women are for sale by some of the world's greatest artists.
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