Friday, 23 January 2009

Morocco, Modigliani and lesbian tea.

It breaks my heart to think of poor old Modi and the wheels I set in motion that would ultimately lead to his death.

One fine spring morning he came to visit me in my studio in Paris. Mona was with me sitting for the series of aural portraits that was to cause such uproar the following year. Mona's sister Jeanne Hebuterne was there, helping to vacuum pack the work. Jeanne and Modi hit it off immediately and were soon lost somewhere deep inside each other, they became inseparable over the next few weeks and, sensing disaster, I decided to take the love lorn artist on a trip to North Africa.

Marrakesh stunned Modigliani; the heat, the colour, the smells, the horny chicks. He became wild with enthusiasm over the tribal art from south of the Sahara on sale in the souk; his style changed overnight when I suggested he paint me in that manner!

I introduced him to Paul Bowles who was living there at that time trying to write a novel (he was stuck for a title until I greeted him with: 'Good to see you so well Paul, under a sheltering sky'.) Paul gave us cups of verveine (lesbian tea he called it) and served sweetmeats from brightly coloured plates and bowls. I still have one of those bowls the glaze worn away in places from the constant rubbing of fingers scooping out the last of the couscous!

Modesty forbids me from describing the action in the brothels but needless to say the local version of Abdul el Bulbul Emir contains verses celebrating our visit.
Our holiday over we returned to Paris; Modigliani to his untimely death watched over by Jeanne, I to my exhibition that was to nearly make me famous.

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