Artist biographies

Chaim Soutine

Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) was the tenth child of a poor Jewish tailor in a village near Minsk. He spent three years at the Art School in Vilnius, before moving to Paris in 1913 to continue his training at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he studied under Fernand Cormon. In Montparnasse he came into contact with other, mainly Jewish artists, such as Marc Chagall and Amedeo Modigliani. In the Louvre galleries Soutine admired great masters of the past, in particular Chardin, Courbet and Rembrandt. Over subsequent years the painter developed his own individual style. His canvases often depict sad, lonely people with contorted faces in an indefinable space, painted in a characteristically rough fashion, with thick, impasto brushstrokes, expressionist deformations and bright colours.

During the First World War Soutine was supported by Leopold Zborowski, a Jewish art dealer whom he had met through Modigliani. From 1918 the painter spent two years in southern France, where he mainly painted still-lifes of flowers and landscapes. From 1923 the American art collector Albert C. Barnes acquired more than 50 of Soutine’s canvases and promoted the artist in the United States, where his star rapidly rose. In the mid-1920s Soutine produced his famous series of paintings of a carcass of beef, inspired by a work by Rembrandt. He also painted other dead animals, portraits, choirboys and bellboys. Over the course of the 1930s the economic crisis and rising anti-Semitism created an increasingly grim mood in Paris. The German invasion of France forced Soutine into hiding and his health rapidly deteriorated. He died in 1943 of a gastro-intestinal perforation, following an emergency operation.

© Chaim Soutine, Zelfportret, 1920-1921, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

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