Stories - Life & Work Balance

In Modigliani’s backpack

By Sara Stefanovic
4 min read

Amedeo Modigliani was a real nomad who, during his short life (he died at the age of 36), managed to touch many cities, assimilating their essence and transmitting it in his works. He confessed his desire to paint to his mother in a feverish delirium that changed his life forever, leading him to devote himself entirely to his passion. The roots of his style lie in Italy; the young artist lived in Livorno, his hometown, Rome, Florence and Venice. But Amedeo was in a hurry to live and our beautiful country was not enough for him. Then the artist moved to Paris where he met the love of his life, the one that still makes our romantic hearts melt, Jeanne. This year we celebrate the centenary of his sad and tragic death by imagining what he would have carried in his backpack.

Modigliani's backpack

What’s in Modigliani’s backpack?

Let’s start from the most important thing, the canvas. Modigliani used fine 15×20 linen canvases prepared with glue, white lead and zinc chalk, which are easily transportable as they are very light. He sometimes used cardboard as a support and prepared it with a zinc base mixed with natural glue, such as isinglass.

Modigliani's backpack

Linen canvas is one of the most valuable and expensive ones, so the artist also used other types of paper to rehearse his works, such as that of the carnet de voyage. His drawings can be divided into three categories: the first have pocket size, then we have medium ones (20X30cm) and, finally the large ones (34X26cm). Modigliani used to draw and paint insinctively, in fact he often ‘tore’ his works directly from the carnets. To date, its production counts about 1300 drawings, almost all performed on ‘poor’ paper (compared to linen), of low weight.


The carnets that he used contained about 50/100 sheets and came mainly from two ‘paper markets’: that of Montmatre and that of Montparnasse. Not having the possibility to recover an original one, we can imagine that today Modigliani would buy and always carry in his backpack a Kunst & Papier carnet de voyage.

How to carry color

Modigliani’s artistic life took place over a short period of time, from 1905 to 1920 and the artist was fond of a defined color palette. His oil palette consisted of: chrome yellow, cadmium yellow, ocher, cinnabar or vermilion, opaque and transparent chrome green, Prussian blue and zinc or lead white. The colors were often diluted with turpentine essence or, in case he wanted to reduce hardening times, linseed oil. Maimeri’s wooden box is an excellent compromise for carrying colors and oils in your backpack.

For his faster works Modigliani diluted and dried quickly the canvas with poor and not very bright colors. Colorful paintings, on the other hand, required a slower preparation. A constant feature of his works are the brown marks that outlined characters, a boundary that imprisoned the subject. The silhouette of the figure was sketched with burnt sienna and applied with the tip of the brush. In this case, Mussini comes to the rescue with his natural Sienna.


And for what concerns brushes, for oil painting the ideal is to use those with bristles of mixed marten and weasel hair, which guarantee a constant and uniform flow. The amazon set for filbert is ideal. The bristles do not shed hair, being held together by strong ferrules, which makes them extremely resistant and flawless.

Drawings on the go

The drawings, as we said before, were very important for Modigliani, and often became real works of art. But what did he use to draw them? The artist drew with simple tools, with mason’s pencils, pencils with a black lead or tinsmith’s pencils. Nowadays, he couldn’t have lived without this Silverline carpenter pencil set.


Finally, let’s not forget that, once torn, the drawings needed to be stored somewhere… One thing we know for sure is that the artist used a blue paper bound folder to collect his works. Today he couldn’t have done without an assorted Iderama drawing folder, perfect for the artist’s backpack on the go.


But what would Modigiani have carried in his backpack if he had been a digital nomad? Surely he would always have brought an iPad with him to use instead of the carnet de voyage. Even if the 7th generation iPads seem a little too advanced for us too, we are sure that using the Procreate app he could have created a million digital works.

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4 min read

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