He was not concerned with portraying realistic appearances, but expressing the feeling and mood of his models, especially in relation to himself. Most often, in the early part of his career, tension and anxiety were the recurring motifs, probably echoing those features in his own life at the time.
But in Paris, Modigliani discovered Cezanne at his retrospective exhibition in 1907, and his debt to Cezanne is revealed in the construction of his compositions in the arrangement of forms and isolation of planes through color as well as his choppy brushstrokes. Although Cezanne had opened a new direction in art leading to Cubism, he had never lost respect for the integrity of the human form, which became central for Modigliani.
He would familiarize himself with his sitter in this way, and gradually decide on a pose. When he subsequently turned to the canvas, he worked quickly, 'interrupting only now and then to drink from a bottle standing nearby'. His friend Lunia Czechowska noted that he worked best in a rage, stoked by cheap brandy or rough red wine. The act of painting required an immense emotional investment from the painter, who would move about, sigh deeply and cry out in frustration. He worked intensively in order to complete the picture at only one sitting.