The Violently Colored Life: Her Modigliani Pages
Presented as the journal of Modigliani's common law wife, Jeanne Hébuterne, who was also an artist, The Violently Colored Life paints an intimate portrait of their rarefied Paris milieu in the early years of the Twentieth Century.
Through scenes interspersed with reflections on love, sex, motherhood, and art, Modi, Jeanne, and their friends in Montparnasse come to life as living creatures that transcend their status as icons of a bygone era. They engage in the ceaseless struggle to create in the face of impending death, which comes in many forms: tuberculosis, the Spanish flu, war, suicide, and, just beyond the end of their own story, another World War and the horrors of the Holocaust.
In addition to Jeanne Hébuterne and Amedeo Modigliani, the book touches on the lives of Pablo Picasso, Toulouse Lautrec, Vincent Van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Suzanne Valadon, Juan Gris, Berthe Morisot, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Claudel, Auguste Rodin, and even Leonardo da Vinci.
Reviews and Praise
"Ireland pulls off a difficult literary trick here: She manages to build a suspenseful atmosphere despite the forgone conclusion of this historical tale. One can't help but sympathize with Jeanne, who surrenders so much of herself for a doomed love. A lively portrait of Modigliani emerges, too—he's both a rakishly irresponsible artist as well as a bookish intellectual ... The author adeptly captures the remarkable artistic spirit of the early 20th century, particularly in Montparnasse, which was the stomping ground of so many notable artists like Picasso, Soutine, Utrillo, Apollinaire, and scores of others. The book includes gorgeous reproductions of not only Modigliani's artwork, but also that of his contemporaries, including the haunting work (in a style similar to her lover's) of Hébuterne, a gifted artist whose formidable legacy was entirely lost in Modigliani's shadow. In fact, this is the central strength of the book: Hébuterne is rescued from being merely a bit player in Modigliani's life. The author depicts her as a tragic figure (her saturnine end is all but foreordained) but fascinating in her own right—intellectually sharp if sometimes childishly naïve. A thoughtful, original historical novel sure to thrill any serious art lover." Kirkus Reviews
"Perrin Ireland has written an unforgettable book: wise, and deeply moving, beautifully written, and wonderfully illustrated. Told in an enchanting and enchanted voice, it’s filled with fascinating details about the lives of the great painters and poets who congregated in Montparnasse during the early part of the 20th century: Jeanne Hébuterne, Amedeo Modigliani, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Brâncuşi, Chaim Soutine, Berthe Morisot, Anna Akhmatova, Apollinaire, and so many others. Ireland has created a whole out of an exotic, yet familiar world, which manages to reflect all the joy and suffering of our own lives. Sheila Kohler, author of Becoming Jane Eyre, Once We Were Sisters and, most recently, Open Secrets
"Perrin Ireland's The Violently Colored Life offers a deeply felt, and gorgeously rendered account of the life of Modigliani and his remarkable circle of artist friends (Picasso, Soutine, Lipchitz, Brâncuşi, and many others) who lived in Paris during and immediately after World War I. Presented as the journal of Modigliani's common law wife, Jeanne Hébuterne, also an artist, the narrative paints an intimate portrait of Modi, Jeanne, and their friends through scenes interspersed with reflections on love, sex, motherhood, and art. One gets the sense of these two, and all their famous friends, as living creatures rather than icons. They are all also engaged in the ceaseless struggle to create in the face of impending death, which comes in many forms: tuberculosis, the Spanish flu, war, suicide, and, just beyond the end of their own story, the second World War and the Holocaust. Modi's cough echoes through the entire narrative as a symptom and a threat, even as he continues to paint. The book covers vast territory and universal themes, with a present-tense reverberation that you feel in your bones." Betsy Seifter, Ph.D. English Literature, coauthor with Julian Seifter, M.D. of After the Diagnosis: Transcending Chronic Illness