(b. 1826, Modigliana, d. 1895, Firenze)
Italian painter. From 1843 to 1847 he attended the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence, studying drawing under Benedetto Servolini (1805-79) and Tommaso Gazzarini (1790-1853), then, briefly, painting under Giuseppe Bezzuoli. About 1847 he entered Luigi Mussini's school, where the teaching emphasized the 15th-century Florentine principles of drawing and orderly construction. Then and for some years afterwards he continued to attend the Scuola del Nudo of the Accademia. After fighting in the military campaigns for Italian independence (1848-49) Lega resumed his training, this time under Antonio Ciseri, executing his first large-scale painting, Doubting Thomas (1850; Modigliana, Ospedale). In 1852 he won the Concorso Trienniale dell'Accademia with David Placating Saul (1852; Florence, Accademia), a subject taken from Vittorio Alfieri's play Saul (1782).
In 1854 when he began to frequent Caffè Michelangiolo, his work began to resemble plein air painting and the chromatic and luminist technique called "macchia" technique but without abandoning the indirect purist influences from Mussini. In 1861 he finally adopted the Macchiaioli style. In the 1860s he exhibited at numerous exhibitions all over Italy with modest success. In 1870 he had his first great success when he won the silver medal at the National Exhibition of Parma. Lega's most intense portraits and some of his brightly coloured landscapes belongs to the 1880s.
His paintings were almost ignored by critics and the public, however, they were praised by the Macchiaioli painters. He died in poverty in 1894, at Florence's Ospedale San Giovanni di Dio.