JEANNE & MODIGLIANI by Nadine Van der Straeten
JEANNE & MODIGLIANI shows the frightening codependency between two wonderful artists. With incredibly enticing artwork, the comic captures the flaws of this pair perfectly and drags us into the dark journey of their personal lives.
97 %
twisted and real

JEANNE & MODIGLIANI is a graphic novel that explores the fraught personal life of early 20th century French artists Amedeo Modigliani and Jeanne Hebuterne.

We love to romanticize the suffering that goes into art. Take a look at Van Gogh, for instance. His hallucinations negatively affected his process. Yet we’re always hearing false stories about how he would eat yellow paint in order to feel happiness, as if his illness was the art itself. Audiences seem to derive a lot of joy from stories like this. However, JEANNE & MODIGLIANI, by Nadine Van der Straeten, weaves a real and visceral story that makes such romanticization impossible. Van der Straeten exposes the darkness that came hand-in-hand with the love shared between Jeanne & Modigliani.

Those outside this story might be tempted to run away from its intensity. However, this comic reels the reader in with the charm and excitement of new love. From there, it very realistically toys with the emotions of the reader as a real life abusive situation might. Just like our protagonists, the reader anxiously turns each page and hopes that things can go back to how they once were. This lets us understand how inescapable the situation was.

Artistic Irony

The contrast between the world of art and the world of romance in JEANNE & MODIGLIANI is incredibly moving. As Jeanne learns and creates, emphasis is put on the truth of her artistic subjects. Modigliani’s art is concerned with essence. On the other hand, Jeanne’s is rooted in the physical. Still, people both focus on truly seeing what’s in front of them.

Image courtesy of Black Panel Press.

Sadly, as their romance progresses, it is obvious that they do not extend that clarity to one another. Modigliani drinks and rages and gets sicker by the day. Jeanne is too in love with Modigliani’s passion to recognize the danger inside of him. The outside world sees their toxic relationship for what it is. As more people push, the closer they cling to each other. The further they drag each other along, the more they pull away from each other emotionally. Despite the distance they create in their hearts and mind, they only clutch each other closer. Jeanne and Modigliani trap themselves. They turn a blind eye to each other. They disguise themselves behind the truth of art.

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The Despair of Dependency

The lovers in JEANNE & MODIGLIANI are unable to separate themselves from one another. Their passion borders on obsession. For a time, all that Jeanne can sketch is Modigliani sleeping. Near the end of the comic, Modigliani can’t bear to have Jeanne away from him. This is even at the risk of his own health.

I don’t doubt for a second that — at least in terms of their comic portrayal — what they feel for one another is genuine love. However, the passionate romance they fall into at the start quickly spins into something deeply unhealthy. As a reader, seeing them dance around this realization wrecks me. This comic tugs the reader along with these two tragic people. These people who refused to see a life beyond desire. Who sacrificed reason and instinct for one another.

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Enticing Artwork

I don’t typically read a lot of black and white comics. Mainly, it’s hard on my eyes to track everything. However, Van der Straeten’s art jumps off of the page. It directs you to every expression and movement you need to know. The shading gives the characters depth and texture. It also laces the darkness of the story into the visuals. There’s so much carried in the eyes of Jeanne and Modigliani. I can feel the passion, lust, and hurt. The artwork makes it so easy to empathize with these people.

Image courtesy of Black Panel Press.

In addition, I really love how sensual the artwork is. Van der Straeten draws the human body as a natural and powerful thing. The nudity in the comic doesn’t come off as cheap. It feels necessary and beautiful.

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Final Thoughts on JEANNE & MODIGLIANI

I would recommend this graphic novel to anyone, regardless of their knowledge of art. The comic doesn’t come off as condescending. Rather, the comic makes readers feel smarter. It does a wonderful job of letting you know who’s who with footnotes.

My only complaint is a minor one — I would have liked to have lived in some moments longer. I don’t think JEANNE & MODIGLIANI shies away from difficult subjects. However, I wanted those topics to sink in even further. Still, it’s incredibly honest and breathtaking.

JEANNE & MODIGLIANI will be released digitally on February 1st. Hardcopies are set to release April 26th. Visit the Kickstarter here!

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