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

Detail from: Jeanne Hebuterne, Autoportrait (Self Portrait), circa 1917, private collection.

Women Artists

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

This post is not going to be about the tragic love story between Jeanne and Amedeo Modigliani (who wants to read about it, click here). This post is going to be about Jeanne the artist.

Jeanne Hebuterne, Autoportrait (Self Portrait), circa 1917, private collection.

Jeanne committed suicide at the age of 21. As Christie’s Paris specialist in Impressionist and Modern Art Valerie Dieder Hess 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 Hebuterne, Portrait Chaïm Soutine, undated, private collection.

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, 1918, private collection.

At the beginning her style was closer to the Fauves and the Nabis group than to Modigliani. Certainly he exerted influence on her, especially that they worked on the same models, but Jeanne was more attentive to the interiors in which she portrayed her sitters and was definitely more experimental than he. 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 Hebuterne, Woman in a bell hat, 1919, private collection.

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 Jeanne’s talent? Hopefully, although he was known as an extremely ruthless critic.

Jeanne Hébuterne, An old lady with a necklace, 1919, private collection.

Although there are very few paintings and hence it’s quite difficult to prize them when at auction, the first self-portrait from the top, in which Jeanne is wearing a kimono which she had probably sewn herself, was sold for €247,500 on 18 October 2018 at Christie’s in Paris.

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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