Artists' biopics are in the news. There's the Elton John flick “Rocketman” that Max Cea's review for Yahoo says “prizes drama over facts.” My complaint exactly about several filmed bios. In 1997, “Artemesia,” the 17th-century painter Artemesia Gentileschi raped by her art teacher, was shown on screen having a love affair with him. The way some moviemakers color art history, you'd think it wasn't dramatic enough.

Hollywood v. history

Now Artnet has nominated 10 artists, in history, whose story would be “spellbindingly dramatic,” I'm glad to see Amadeo Modigliani make the list.

The 2004 biopic of his life glossed over the startling, though unglamorous, parts of his life. For example, the film makes clear that because he was a Jew and the woman he loved, Jeanne Hebuterne, was a Catholic, her anti-Semitic family took their infant daughter from them and sent her to a faraway convent to be raised by nuns. But the film mistakenly states that he was intent on raising money to retrieve his daughter. According to the 1932 memoir “Laughing Torso” by Nina Hamnett who knew Modigliani, ”he raised money to support his addiction” (alcohol).

Blown away

And while this Modigliani biopic accurately recounts his pregnant wife's suicide, it leaves off screen some telling details noted in Charles Douglas 1941 tome “Artist Quarter: Reminiscences of Montmartre and Montparnasse in The First Two Decades of the Twentieth Century.” For example: Upon learning that her husband died following a beating outside a tavern, Jeanne went to the fifth floor of her family home and jumped out the window to her death taking her unborn child with her.

Her family left her lying on the ground, saying that because of their faith, they couldn't have a suicide in their home. Passersby brought her to the Modigliani studio, where two friends sat with her body through the night to ward off rats.

Worth more dead than alive

Hamnett's memoir also pointed out information missing in the film: Modigliani's death raised the prices of his pictures.

Along those lines, Douglas' Book tells the story of the proprietor of Modigliani's studio who so under-valued the art of his “worthless lodger,” that he used the canvases to cover sofas. After learning of their value, he rushed to salvage them. But his wife had carefully scraped off the “dirty paint,” so a dealer's offer of 10,000 francs for the lot fell through.

Douglas said the proprietor had such a fit of rage that he died of apoplexy.

Truer storytelling

It's time, then, to make another biopic of Modigliani and with more facts than fiction this time. Ditto, the 1958 biopic of Francisco Goya, which describes a young Goya painting his famous portrait of the Duchess of Alba. But wait, he painted her likeness around 1806, which would have put his age at 60, and Anthony Franciosa, who played Goya, was 30 at the time. Granted the actor was prettier than the artist, but if you're talking history, you shouldn't make up stuff.