Born on this date in Livorno, Italy, in 1884, Modigliani moved to Paris in 1906, where he was active in the bohemian artistic communities of Montmartre and Montparnasse and became infamous for his hot-tempered nature and debaucherous lifestyle. Surrounded there by artistic fervor and inspiration, Modigliani created hundreds of paintings, drawings, and 31 sculptures between 1906 and his untimely death in 1920, at the age of 35. Upon his arrival in Paris Modigliani befriended and exchanged ideas with avant-garde artists and thinkers as varied as Constantin Brancusi, Max Jacob, Pablo Picasso, and Chaim Soutine. He remained independent of any particular movement, though, and instead quickly established a distinctive style uniquely his own.
LACMA’s Young Woman of the People (1918), which portrays a figure with elongated proportions, an oval head and mask-like face, and almond-shaped eyes, is emblematic of the artist’s portraiture. Modigliani pictures the young woman—likely Germaine Labaye, a friend of Modigliani’s lover Jeanne Hébuterne and an aspiring painter herself—seated frontally and directly confronting the viewer. Her pale blue eyes, one cross-hatched and the other blank, lend the portrait a disquieting mood, while her still countenance and pose communicates a sense of quiet melancholy. View Modigliani’s paintings in the modern art galleries in the Ahmanson Building.