Women Artists

Jeanne Hébuterne: Not Only a Muse but an Artist in Her Own Right

Magda Michalska 12 July 2019 min Read

This article is not about the tragic love story between Jeanne Hébuterne and Amedeo Modigliani (if you want to read about it, click here). This article is about Jeanne Hébuterne the artist.

Jeanne Hébuterne, Autoportrait (Self-Portrait), circa 1917, private collection. Artnet.

Jeanne Hébuterne committed suicide at the age of 21. Valerie Dieder Hess, Christie’s Paris specialist in impressionist and modern art, said, “there are only around 25 Hébuterne paintings in the world. She died so young, before she could establish any kind of reputation as a painter.”

Jeanne Hébuterne, Portrait Chaïm Soutine, private collection. Artnet.

Hébuterne displayed a gift for drawing already at a young age. She did numerous pencil drawings, watercolors, and gouaches, but she never dated them. Her parents allowed her to study at the Académie Colarossi in Paris and it was there that she met Modigliani, 14 years her senior.

Jeanne Hébuterne, Self-portrait, 1916, The Petit Palais, Paris, France.
Jeanne Hébuterne, Self-Portrait, 1916, The Petit Palais, Paris, France. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

In the beginning, her style was closer to the Fauves and the Nabis group than to Modigliani. Certainly, he exerted influence on her, especially since they worked with the same models, but Jeanne Hébuterne was more attentive to the interiors in which she portrayed her sitters and was definitely more experimental than Modigliani. In addition to portraits, she painted landscapes, looking out to the courtyard from her studio window, as well as still lifes, which were both done in a style reminiscent of Bonnard and Vuillard.

Jeanne Hébuterne, Woman in a Bell Hat, 1919, private collection. Artnet

Some of her works are executed in exquisite Art Deco style, but as previously with drawings, none of them signed. She never exhibited nor ever had any contract with an art dealer (although Leopold Zborowski, the primary art dealer of Modigliani was their friend). Did Modigliani appreciate Hébuterne’s talent? Hopefully, although he was known as an extremely ruthless critic.

Jeanne Hébuterne, An old lady with a necklace, 1919, private collection.
Jeanne Hébuterne, An Old Lady with a Necklace, 1919, private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

There are very few known paintings by Jeanne Hébuterne, hence they are a rarity at auctions. The first self-portrait from the top, in which Jeanne Hébuterne is wearing a kimono that she had probably sewn herself, was sold for €247,500 on 18 October 2018 at Christie’s in Paris.


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