It can be argued that Modigliani demonstrated an instinctual modernist understanding of identity as heterogeneous, beyond national or cultural boundaries,” writes the curator Mason Klein regarding the subject of “Modigliani Unmasked,” an exhibition at the Jewish Museum. Indeed it can be argued, in just the way that many people argue that no man-made thing can be understood properly unless it is first interpreted as a product of identity. Whether it ought to be argued is another matter.

“Modigliani Unmasked” makes much of the fact that the artist, a Jew expatriated to Paris from Livorno, identified as such, rather than passing as a French gentile when pervasive anti-Semitism would have made it advantageous to do so. The first room is given over to the earliest and weakest works in order to make that point. Alas, the title of The Jewess...


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