Nina Hamnett Hamnett was born in Tenby, Pembrokeshire, South Wales, United Kingdom. From 1906 to 1907 she studied at the Pelham Art School and then at the London School of Art until 1910. In 1914 she went to the Montparnasse Quarter in Paris, France to study at Marie Vassilieff's Academy.
On her first night in the Bohemian community she went to the cafĂ© La Rotond where the man at the next table introduced himself as "Modigliani, painter and Jew". In addition to making close friends with Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Serge Diaghilev, and Jean Cocteau, she stayed for a while at La Ruche with many of the leading members of the avant-garde living there at the time. In Montparnasse she also met her husband, the Norwegian artist Roald Kristian.