Amedeo Modigliani arrived in Paris in 1906 to continue his artistic studies. He settled in Montmartre and initially painted in a style that closely resembled that of Steinlen (1859-1923), Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901), and Picasso (1881-1973) in his Blue Period. 1909 marked a turning point. After a short stay in Livorno, where, already, line was becoming more important to him than texture and colour, he met the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957). He then moved to the Cité Falguière, an artists’ commune in Montparnasse, and concentrated mainly on sculpture. During this period, he was sculpting heads. However, he quickly abandoned this technique because of problems with his health and the cost of materials. According to the sculptor Zadkine (1890-1967): “Zborowski took Modi to meet Paul Guillaume, a young dealer, rather plump and flabby, who exhibited not only Cubist paintings but also African sculptures as yet unknown by the general public, of the sort I had noticed some years earlier in the British Museum, with ethnographic labels. Paul Guillaume agreed to let Modigliani do his portrait. All sittings and painting sessions took place in a cellar lit by a powerful electric light, with a litre of wine on the table." (1) Modigliani produced several portraits of the dealer dating from 1915 and 1916. The Musée de l’Orangerie has one version in which Paul Guillaume, very elegantly dressed, is presented as the defender of contemporary painting, the “novo pilota”. Paul Guillaume rented a studio for the painter and bought many of his works up until Modigliani’s premature death in 1920. Guillaume’s widow Domenica kept a fine set of five paintings now in the Musée de l’Orangerie.
(1) Ossip Zadkine, Le maillet et le ciseau. Souvenirs de ma vie, Paris, Albin Michel, 1968, p.92