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Amadeo Modigliani was born in Livorno, Italy, and had formal art training in Florence, followed by a year in Venice. In the winter of 1906 he moved to Paris, settling in Montparnasse, home to Chaim Soutine, Jacques Lipchitz and Moise Kisling. During his early years in Paris, Modigliani turned to sculpture, carving totem-like figures in stone that owed a debt to his mentor Constantin Brancusi as well as to African masks and Greek Archaic figures.

Modigliani returned to painting in 1915, specializing in portraits of his lovers and friends. These are delicate in execution, the forms and color simple, and typically the sitter is sad or non-expressive. A series of large nudes are particularly erotic. Typically the figure is outlined describing an elongated torso sensuously modeled with imperceptible gradations of flesh tones. They were so highly charged that the 1917 exhibition in Paris was closed because the paintings were considered obscene.

The fourteen years he spent in Paris were productive, but Modigliani died at the age of 36 from tuberculosis and the ravages of an excessive lifestyle.