This exhibition of more than 30 paintings by Chaim Soutine, the Expressionist known for his gestural and densely painted canvases, focuses on the artist's remarkable paintings depicting hanging fowl, beef carcasses, and rayfish, now considered among his greatest artistic achievements.
Chaim Soutine (1893–1943) is one of the twentieth century’s great painters of still life. In the Paris of the 1920s, Soutine was a double outsider—an immigrant Jew and a modernist. Guided by his expressive artistic instincts, he both embraced the traditional genre of still life and exploded it.
Still-life painting offers an opportunity for an artist to display technical skill and to explore aspects of color, composition, and brushwork. At the Louvre, Soutine studied the canvases of the Old Masters: careful and elaborate arrangements of flowers, fruit, and other food, including hunters’ trophies of game. He transformed such precedents into contorted and turbulent paintings of dead animals, imbued with suffering and anxiety.
Soutine was born in a Jewish village in the Lithuanian part of western Russia (now Belarus). The region was plagued with anti-Semitic violence—thousands of Jews were killed in pogroms during his childhood. At age twenty, after studying art at the academy in Vilnius for three years, he moved to Paris, the artistic and intellectual center of Europe in the twenties. There, he lived and worked alongside other Jewish emigré artists, including Moïse Kisling, Ossip Zadkine, Jacques Lipchitz, and Amedeo Modigliani, who became a close friend.
Soutine’s harsh and wrenching portrayals—of beef carcasses, plucked fowl, fish, and game—create a parallel between the animal and human, between beauty and pain. His still-life paintings, produced over a period of thirty years, express with visceral power his painterly mastery and personal passion.