Between 1915 and 1916, Modigliani produced four portraits of his patron. The first of these, conserved at the Musée de l'Orangerie, proclaims the special relationship between the art dealer and the artist in early 1915. Paul Guillaume, then aged just 23, posed for the painting in the apartment of Modigliani’s mistress, Beatrice Hastings.
Modigliani inscribed the art dealer’s name, as well as the humorous manifesto: Paul Guillaume, "Novo Pilota", new helmsman, in capital letters as common in advertisements and the canvases of his futuristic compatriots. Like a racing car driver or a aviation pioneer, he was depicted as taking over the helm of modern painting.
On a more personal note, Modigliani assigned the art dealer the role of artistic guide in his life: in the midst of war, at a time of great destitution, Paul Guillaume played the part of material and moral support.
Other than his painted portraits, Modigliani also produced several drawings of his art dealer and patron including the one acquired during the sale at the Ader auction house, directly related to the painted portrait.
The Portrait of Paul Guillaume, mid-thigh, with its clear lines, depicts the nonchalance of the model portrayed as an elegant young man, one hand on his collar. Although differing in its composition from the canvas conserved at the Orangerie, the inscription “NOVO PILOTA” in capital letters in the bottom left, topped by a cross in exactly the same place, establishes the link between the two. Although the drawing is not dated, these specific elements lead us to believe that the drawing was produced around the same time as the painting.
Amedeo Modigliani, Portrait of Paul Guillaume, mid-thigh
The acquisition of this work from the Paul Guillaume collection is a rare opportunity for the Musée de l’Orangerie as it has remained in the family of Domenica Walter, but also due to its close ties to the painted portrait already conserved at the Orangerie.