Soutine

Chaïm Soutine (1893 – August 9, 1943) was a Jewish expressionist painter from Belarus.

He was born in Smilavichy near Minsk, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire). From 1910–1913 he studied in Vilnius at the I. Trutnev painting school. In 1913, with his friends Pinchus Kremegne and Michel Kikoine, he emigrated to Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He soon developed a highly personal vision and painting technique.

For a time, he and his friends lived at La Ruche, a residence for struggling artists in Montparnasse, where he became friends with Amedeo Modigliani, who painted his portrait in 1917. In 1923, the American collector Albert C. Barnes visited his studio and immediately bought sixty of Soutine’s paintings. Soutine went on to produce landscapes, still-lifes, and portraits.

Soutine once horrified his neighbours by keeping an animal carcass in his studio so that he could paint it (Carcass of Beef). The stench drove them to send for the police, whom Soutine promptly lectured on the relative importance of art over hygiene. In February 2006 this painting sold for £7.8 million to an anonymous buyer in London.

Obsessed by form and colour, often depressed and dissatisfied, Soutine destroyed many paintings during bouts of despair and produced the majority of his works from 1920 to 1929. He seldom showed his works, but he did take part in the exhibition of Independent Art held in 1937 in Paris, where he was at last hailed as a great painter. Soon thereafter 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.

Soutine was interred in Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris. After his death his vivid colors and passionate handling of paint gained him recognition as one of the foremost Expressionist painters.

Return from School After the Storm (c. 1939). Oil on canvas.

Return from School After the Storm (c. 1939). Oil on canvas.

A few of his paintings:

  • Ceret Landscape – (c.1919)
  • Pastry Cook – (1922), Louvre, Paris
  • Street of Cagnes-sur-Mer – (c.1923-1924)
  • Carcass of Beef – (c.1925), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
  • Sinister Street – (c.1921), Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Winding Road – (c.1939)
  • Large Poplars at Civery or After the Storm – (c.1939)

Soutine in fiction

A character in Roald Dahl‘s short story “Skin” finds himself with a tattoo, made by Soutine on his back, worth a fortune after the artist’s death.

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