The materials used in this art work are relatively simple ones: ink and paper and yet Modigliani has managed to create an energetic piece that gives us a real sense of the personality of the eponymous bearded man.
The impressionistic use of lines of varying thicknesses makes this pen and ink drawing a beautiful evocation of a particular individual character. This will remind many of Leonardo da Vinci's own Bearded Man.
Modigliani was born in 1884 in Italy and he died in France in 1920. Of Italian Jewish heritage, he often painted subjects who were related to the Jewish culture and community in Europe, and Bearded Man is a key example of this.
Many of Modigliani's paintings and drawings revolve around portraying single human figures and conveying something of their personality. Thus, though it does not have the deep, warm red hues that are typical of Modigliani's oil paintings (Portrait of Pablo Picasso being a notable example here), Bearded Man is in many ways a classic Modigliani piece.
The reason that Modigliani chose to represent the bearded man in simple pen and ink may be due to the position of this artwork within the chronology of Modigliani's works. Bearded Man is a relatively early piece by Modigliani and he created it whilst he was falling under the influence of the artists known as the Macchiaioli.
The name Macchiaioli comes from the Italian for 'a splash of colour' and these artists were known for their bright and daring use of colours. In the early 20th century, Modigliani was beginning to get to know and to admire these artists.
However, he initially rejected their way of working (for instance, he disliked painting in the open air by sitting in cafes and sketching as they so often did). As such, it took another few years for him to start applying their vibrant and colourful style definitively in his own work. We can thus say that Bearded Man was painted at a very interesting time in Modigliani's life.