Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Guillaume, 1916,
Oil on board laid down on cradled panel, 53 x 37 cm, © 2011 ProLitteris, Zurich
This confident-looking young man with the scornful look on his face is the Paris art dealer Paul Guillaume. The painting dates back to 1916, when Guillaume at just 25 years of age was already a successful dealer in the modern art of that period. During the First World War Guillaume's gallery was a meeting place for the Paris literati. He was highly unorthodox in art dealer circles, offering his artists financial support in times of need.
In about 1915 Guillaume signed on the 35 year-old painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani and helped him fund a studio. Modigliani never pursued one particular direction in his work, instead choosing to borrow from various different influences. He mixed elements of the Renaissance and African art with those of Expressionism and Cubism without confining himself to one or the other. People were his main subject. Typical for Modigliani's style are the slender elongated forms, with distinctly drawn lines and empty eyes. Despite a starkly reduced representational style he managed to give every one of his models a distinct character.
Modigliani had already painted Pablo Picasso's portrait in 1915; a year later he completed portraits of other artists and celebrities, leaving behind his own extraordinary record of the vibrant Paris art scene of the time.