Saturday, January 13, 2018

Chaïm Soutine. Born on this day in 1893


January 13, 1893. Chaïm Soutine (13 January 1893 - 9 August 1943) was a Russian-French painter of Jewish origin. Soutine made a major contribution to the expressionist movement while living in Paris. Inspired by classic painting in the European tradition, exemplified by the works of Rembrandt, Chardin and Courbet, Soutine developed an individual style more concerned with shape, color, and texture over representation, which served as a bridge between more traditional approaches and the developing form of Abstract Expressionism. In this image: Chaim Soutine, Two Pheasants.

Born in Belorussia (Now Minsk, Russia), of a poor Jewish family, Soutine made his way to Paris in 1913. He remained the outsider, gauche, speaking poor French and always on the edge of starvation which is probably why so many of his works portray meat.  In 1915, however, the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, who also had studied in Vilna, introduced him to Modigliana, and Soutine soon became one of the companions of Modigliani as the Italian roamed Montparnasse in the evenings, offering to sketch portraits on the terraces in exchange for drinks. When Modliagini died in 1920 (?) of advanced TB and alcoholism, the news shocked and devastated Soutine who never drank from then on. 

Carcass of Beef

He seldom showed his works, but he did take part in the important exhibition The Origins and Development of International Independent Art held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in 1937 in Paris, where he was at last hailed as a great painter. Soon afterwards France was invaded by German troops. As a Jew, Soutine had to escape from the French capital and hide in order to avoid arrest by the Gestapo. He moved from one place to another and was sometimes forced to seek shelter in forests, sleeping outdoors. Suffering from a stomach ulcer and bleeding badly, he left a safe hiding place for Paris in order to undergo emergency surgery, which failed to save his life. On August 9, 1943, Chaim Soutine died of a perforated ulcer. He was interred in Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris.


Despite dominant trends toward abstraction, Soutine maintained a firm connection to recognizable subject matter. His innovation was in the way he chose to represent his subjects: with a thick impasto of paint covering the surface of the canvas, the palette, visible brushwork, and forms translated the artist's inner torment. As an expatriate Russian Jew living within Paris, with few friends beyond fellow artist Amedeo Modigliani, Soutine interpreted common themes with the eye of an outsider, further enhancing his unique perspective regarding his human subjects, landscapes, and still lifes and lending them a particular vanitas and poignancy. A prototypical wild artist, Soutine's temper and depression are both well documented and were poured into the paint he layered on the canvas. Soutine's body of work transcends the movements that dominated the avant-garde during his lifetime, expressing a clear personal and artistic vision that both looks back at historic themes as well as toward future modernist styles.

More about Soutine's tragic life at Wikipedia and here

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

Not my cup of tea, but I think I can see why he's important in the art world. I DO like the strong use of color in the pieces depicted, though.