Isidore Pils (1815–1875) was a French academic painter of mainly religious and military subjects. In 1831 he became a student at the École des Beaux-Arts and studied under François-Édouard Picot Pils then spent three years at the French Academy in Rome at the Villa Medici, and visited Naples, Venice, and Florence. Pils's earlier paintings have religious themes but after experiences travelling with French troops through the Crimea, his themes took on military and nationalistic subjects. Pils was appointed professor of painting at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1863 but left the same year for two years in Algeria. Amongst other work, he painted part of the ceiling of the grand staircase of the Palais Garnier, in four panels of The Gods. It was completed the year of his death.
The sensuous pose of this woman is strongly reminiscent of Ingres's popular paintings of female slaves and concubines in Turkish harems. Much of the canvas was left thinly painted or even blank, suggesting that it was a preparatory study rather than a finished work. At this period the French Academy saw the depiction of the nude as the ultimate measure of an artist's skill. Students had to work quickly and without embellishment because models changed poses frequently. In this painting Pils has finished only those areas needed to emphasize the contours of the model's body.
Nude on a Blue Cushion
Artist: Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo, or "Dedo," Modigliani (1884-1920) was the youngest of four children born to Jewish parents in Livorno, Italy. In 1895, Amedeo contracted the first of several serious illnesses that he battled throughout childhood including typhoid and tuberculosis. In 1901, Dedo was recuperating in southern Italy with his mother. Visits to the museums in Naples, Rome, Florence, and Venice familiarized him with classical Italian painting and sculpture, fuelling his enthusiasm for the fine arts. After their return to Livorno, he convinced his mother to allow him to move to Florence, where he studied figure drawing at the Scuola Libera di Nudo. Although his works were not commercially successful during his lifetime, they became increasingly popular after his death. Modigliani is now among the celebrated artists of the twentieth century.