Love Story

The Tragic Story of Jeanne Hébuterne and Modigliani

Zuzanna Stańska 24 January 2023 min Read

Jeanne Hébuterne is best known for being a frequent sitter and common-law wife of the Italian painter Amedeo Modigliani. However, the story of her relationship with the famous artist is one of the most tragic love stories of the art world.

Jeanne Hébuterne
Jeanne Hébuterne, c. 1918. Byron’s Muse.

Jeanne Hébuterne was known for her beauty and her long, dark hair. She was introduced to the artistic community in Montparnasse by her brother André Hébuterne who wanted to become a painter. She met several of the then-starving artists, including Tsuguharu Foujita, and she modeled for them.

Jeanne Hebuterne modeled for Foujita before becoming muse and mate of Amedeo Modigliani
Jeanne Hébuterne, c. 1919. Photo by Fonds Hébuterne – Fabrice Gousset.

Although she was already known in the artistic circles of Paris, Hébuterne had a talent for drawing and wanted to become an artist like her male peers. Therefore she chose to study at the Académie Colarossi. It was there, in the spring of 1917, that young Jeanne Hébuterne was introduced to Amedeo Modigliani. Modigliani was a handsome man, attracting a lot of female attention. The two began their affair and fell deeply in love. She soon moved in with him, despite strong objections from her parents.

Jeanne Hébuterne, Self-portrait, 1918, private collection
Jeanne Hébuterne, Self-portrait, 1918, private collection. Marina’s Muses.

Life with Modigliani must have been hard. He had severe problems with substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs. His escalating intake of drugs and alcohol may have been a means by which Modigliani disguised his progressing tuberculosis from his friends, only a few of them knew of his condition. Tuberculosis—the leading cause of death in France by 1900—was a horrible illness without a cure. Furthermore, those who suffered from it were feared, ostracized, and pitied by others. 

Amedeo Modigliani, 1918
Amedeo Modigliani, 1918. Tate.

The writer Charles-Albert Cingria described Jeanne Hébuterne as gentle, shy, quiet, and delicate. In the fall of 1918, the couple moved south to  Nice on the French Riviera where Modigliani’s agent hoped he might raise his profile by selling some of his works to the wealthy art connoisseurs who wintered there. While living in Nice, their daughter was born. The following spring they returned to Paris and Hébuterne became pregnant again.

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne, 1919, private collection
Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne, 1919, private collection. Wiki Art.

On 24 January 1920, Amedeo Modigliani died of tuberculosis. Jeanne Hébuterne’s family thus brought her back to live in their family home. Sadly, Hébuterne threw herself out of the fifth-floor apartment window the day after Modigliani’s death, dying by suicide. Her family blamed her demise on Modigliani and initially interred her in the Cimetière de Bagneux. Nearly 10 years later the family relented and allowed her remains to be transferred to Père Lachaise Cemetery to rest beside Modigliani. Her epitaph reads: “Devoted companion to the extreme sacrifice.”


Giotto Meeting at the Golden Gate Love Story

The First Kiss in Art History

It was back in the year 1305 when Giotto di Bondone painted a fresco capturing the moment when Virgin Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, kissed...

Petra Dragasevic 28 October 2022

Love Story

Unhappily Ever After: Unequal Marriage by Vasili Pukirev

Vasili Pukirev’s painting Unequal Marriage has a legend about it: allegedly, after looking at it, all the elderly grooms refused to marry their...

Elizaveta Ermakova 7 October 2021

Love Story

Most Beautiful Royal Weddings in History — Commissions by Queen Victoria

Alexandrina Victoria ascended to the throne at the young age of 18 and reigned as Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, of Great Britain and Ireland,...

Maya M. Tola 25 June 2021

Love Story

The Most Important Day! Wedding Inspiration in Art

Weddings have provided many skilled artists an avenue to flaunt their talents by portraying the complexities and intricacies of this age-old...

Maya M. Tola 9 June 2021