The Influence of African Art on Modern Artists

By | September 10, 2015

Some of the most beloved artistic creations of sub-Saharan Africa, masks, figures, and decorative art labeled as Senufo have been the subject of numerous studies by African, North American, and European scholars since the 1930s. The interest in sculpture identified as Senufo was largely stimulated by its discovery by the artistic avant-garde in the early 20th century. Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Fernand Léger were among those to find inspiration in the oeuvre of their West African counterparts.

In a recent Gallery Talk, Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art, highlighted the influence African art had on works from our collection, including Amedeo Modigliani’s Elvira Resting at a Table. 


Learn more about how modern artists were inspired by African art when you visit Senufo: Art and Identity in West Africa.  Don’t wait too long to plan your trip though. The exhibition closes Sunday, September 27!


Unidentified Ligbi or Jula artist - 'Mask for the Do Society'

Unidentified Ligbi or Jula artist; Mask for the Do Society, probably 19th century; wood, paint, palm oil, and henna, 11 7/8 x 6 x 3 7/8 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Funds given by Howard F. Baer in honor of his wife, Isabel A. Baer

Amedeo Modigliani - Elvira Resting at a Table

Amedeo Modigliani, Italian, 1884–1920, ‘Elvira Resting at a Table’, 1919; oil on canvas, 36 1/2 x 23 13/16 inches; Gift of Joseph Pulitzer Jr. in memory of his wife, Louise Vauclain Pulitzer