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Culture Watch: Meryle Secrest's 'Modigliani: A Life'

March 16, 2011 |  9:00 am

ModiglianiMeryle Secrest, "Modigliani: A Life"

(Alfred A. Knopf, $35)

Amedeo Modigliani was a babe, which is one thing the 2004 Hollywood biopic got right. Meryle Secrest, whose earlier biographies of Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark and Joseph Duveen added much to our understanding of 20th century art historians and dealers, now writes in “Modigliani: A Life” that the Italian-born artist famous for his Parisian dissolution also led an existence marked by one love affair after the next.

Some of it was apparently a cover (or a compensation) for the debilitating tuberculosis that he kept secret –- a spasmodic condition managed with the opium, laudanum and alcohol that contributed mightily to his tragic death at 35. Languishing beauty, Secrest observes, likewise came to characterize his figure paintings and sculptures.


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