Italian painter and sculptor, who was concerned with graceful, simplified, and sympathetic portrayal of the human figure. Modigliani was born in Livorno and raised in a Jewish ghetto, where he suffered serious illnesses as a boy. He studied art in Florence and in 1906 moved to Paris, where he became acquainted with Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and other avant-garde artists living there.
In Paris, Modigliani led a reckless, dissipated life that gradually took its toll on his health. His artistic gifts, however, were never doubted by fellow artists. He was influenced by fauvism and later by the work of his friend, the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. He first produced sculpture inspired by African carvings, but eventually Modigliani concentrated on painting.
The paintings of Modigliani, highly characteristic and delicate, are marked by sinuous lines, simple, flat forms, and elongated proportions that are almost classical in effect. Portraits and figure studies constitute most of his work, and both are characterized by the oval faces for which he is popularly known.
The portraits, although of the utmost simplicity in contour, reveal considerable psychological insight and a curious sense of pathos. He achieved, in his best work, a blend of the dynamism of African sculpture and the pure grace of the 15th-century Botticelli style. He is represented by paintings such as Reclining Nude (1919?, Museum of Modern Art, New York City) and Nude on a Divan (1918, National Gallery, Washington, D.C.).