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Global Gallery’s featured artist went against the grain

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Amedeo Modigliani's "Jeanne Hébuterne (Au chapeau)." Credit: Courtesy of

Amedeo Modigliani’s “Jeanne Hébuterne (Au chapeau).”
Credit: Courtesy of Abhijit Varde

Ohio State’s World Media and Culture Center is offering students a glimpse into the intense life and work of Italian painter and sculptor, Amedeo Modigliani.  

The Global Gallery, located in Hagerty Hall, provides online and onsite art exhibits.

Abhijit Varde, curator for the Global Gallery and assistant director for technology at the OSU Foreign Language Center, was first introduced to Modigliani’s work as a teenager growing up in Bombay, India.

“Some art seller was selling art books, and it was this book (of Modigliani’s work) that I saw and I was fascinated by it,” Varde said. “I never knew at that time that I was going to go to art school, but I looked at it and I had fun with it, and I thought someday I’ll do something with it.”

Years later, Varde used this experience from his youth as the inspiration to create the exhibit around Modigliani’s life and work currently on display in the gallery.

Modigliani worked almost exclusively with the human form, painting a lot of nude portraits and portraits featuring elongated, masklike faces and discolored eyes. When deciding the pieces from the artist’s portfolio to showcase, Varde said that he aimed for the exhibit to show a comprehensive representation of Modigliani’s complete body of work.

During his life, Modigliani’s work brought him little success. But since his death in 1920, the artist has gained fame and recognition, Varde said. Modigliani’s paintings and sculptures now sell for millions of dollars.

Amedeo Modigliani's "Gypsy Woman with Baby." Credit: Courtesy of Abhijit Varde

Amedeo Modigliani’s “Gypsy Woman with Baby.” Credit: Courtesy of Abhijit Varde

“What is interesting about him is that at the time that he was painting almost nobody was doing portraits, everybody was doing something else,” Varde said. “So for him to completely go against the grain and do what he did was crazy and just not practical. But he did it anyway and he paid the price for it. He died a destitute man, but because he did it and he did it so consistently and in such a radically different way that’s why he became so famous there on.”

Since its establishment in 2005, the Global Gallery has served as a visual celebration of global cultures, said Diane Birckbichler, director of the World Media and Culture Center.

“From our first exhibit until today, students have been taken by the exhibits in the Global Gallery,” Birckbichler said. “From these visually appealing and varied exhibits, we want them to gain an understanding of cultures from around the world and to gain a glimpse of their ways of life, their artistic expression, their preoccupations.”

Modigliani’s work will be on display in the Global Gallery on the first floor of Hagerty Hall until Oct. 16.

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