Amedeo Modiglianihas gone down in Art History for his haunting female nudes and some of his exciting portraits of women. But the truth is that he not only painted females, there are also several works that he made with the image of children, and a good example is this Boy with a blue smock from the year 1918 and which forms part of the collection of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Boy in Modigliani's Blue Smock
And in a way, he applied the same artistic criteria for these models. We see that the figure is built on a precise motif, reminiscent of a geometric shape. It is as if he repeated two ovals, the one of the face and the one of the shirt. It is clear that the blue nightgown has more prominence, which occupies the center of the painting, and whose oval shape is not respected by color, but by the position of the sleeves and hands.
And we can even distinguish a third oval on the vertical axis that runs through the entire painting and figure. Although in this case it is not closed because it is cut by the edge of the canvas. It would be the shape that is generated by the hips and legs.
This geometric base is common in many works byModigliani, since he is a painter who has always been characterized by his search for purity of form. And in addition to that, in this child portrait we can also see another defining feature of this painter: his very personalway to draw.
He always drew defining some color spots, but besides that he draws to provide definitive details to his characters. Here, for example, we can appreciate it in the perfect curve of the face, in the limits of the ears, and above all in the profile of the boy's nose and slanted eyes.
And now the question is, who was his model? Well, it is speculated that he was a street child, something logical considering Modigliani's limited economic resources that he could not pay for the models, in addition to the fact that he did not receive excessive commissions either.
But this deduction can also be supported by the representation itself, since that blue nightgown could be a work uniform, for example that of an apprentice in a store or warehouse. And the fact is that the boy has a certain melancholic expression, tired and subdued. Something that is manifested not only in the expression on his face, but also in the languid posture and the position of his hands, one on top of the other. In short, in a pose that seems more typical of someone downcast and of a certain age, rather than a child.