The Kimbell Art Museum is honored to receive the gift of a masterpiece of modern sculpture, a carved limestone Head by the Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. This rare work is one of about twenty-seven surviving sculptures by the artist. The Weiner Head is distinguished from others by its complex balance of brutality and refinement, as the delicate head emerges from the roughly hewn mass of the stone block. The lively and varied surface celebrates the process of its creation: blunt gouges and sensual striations of the sculptor’s chisels mark the tapered neck and head, countered by the sharp incisions of the hair and more refined finish of the oval face and cheeks. Its expressive sophistication reveals a sculptor at the height of his talents.
Although renowned today for his more numerous paintings, Modigliani considered himself foremost a sculptor. Having left his hometown of Livorno in 1906 to join the Parisian avant-garde and stimulated by the example of Constantin Brancusi, who became his neighbor when he moved to a studio in the community of Montparnasse in 1909, Modigliani championed direct carving in stone, seeking to revitalize sculpture by returning to its ancient methods. Scavenging limestone from construction sites including the Paris subway, he created a series of elegantly stylized, mostly elongated heads, with slender necks and geometric features such as almond-shaped eyes and small round or smiling mouths.
Modigliani’s distinctive aesthetic—born from the tension between figuration and abstraction—was inspired by a range of works that he admired in Paris, including African, Egyptian, ancient Greek, and Cambodian statuary. His powerful—even mystical—sculptures invoke deities or timeless beings. Seven of the heads were displayed as a “decorative ensemble” in the 1912 Salon d’Automne in a room with Cubist paintings. Paul Guillaume, Modigliani’s dealer, later wrote that the artist envisioned his heads as “columns of tenderness” in a “temple of beauty.” Around 1914, ill health and poverty forced Modigliani to abandon sculpture and return to painting portraits and nude figures. He died at age thirty-five of tubercular meningitis.
Oilman Ted Weiner, with his wife Lucile and their daughter Gwendolyn, acquired important modern artworks, particularly sculpture, in the 1950s and 1960s. This major pioneering private collection was displayed in their modernist home and garden in Fort Worth.
Presumably Lucien Lefebvre-Foinet, Paris;
Maurice Lefebvre-Foinet, Paris [1902-1984]
(Curt Valentin Gallery, New York), 1951;
purchased by Mr. Morton D. May [1914-1983], St. Louis, 1953;
purchased by (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), 1962;
purchased by Ted and Lucile Weiner, Fort Worth and Palm Springs, 1963;
their daughter Gwendolyn Weiner;
acquired by the Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 2017, gift in honor of Ted and Lucile Weiner by their daughter Gwendolyn