Boy with Blue Waistcoat, 1919

Amedeo Modigliani (1884 - 1920) was one of those dedicated artists who unintentionally inspire a romantic legend - in his case, the legend of a handsome, poor, dissipated painter who drove himself to premature death through drink, drugs and overwork. It was, indeed, by sheer industry that he developed his astonishingly individual and homogenous style.

Born in Leghorn, he studied in Venice and Florence before arriving in 1906 in Paris. There he became affected by a variety of influences: CÚzanne, Gauguin, Picasso, the Fauves, the Italian Renaissance masters, and Brancusi, whose example (together with that of African sculpture) largely inspired the elongated heads and figures, and the curvilinear rhythms, that are characteristic of his mature style.

The nudes and portraits that Modigliani created during his last years - with their subtle draughtmanship and delicate sense of colour - possess a haunting beauty and purity that cause us to echo Jean Cocteau's eulogy of Modigliani as "the simplest and noblest genius of that heroic age".