Chaim Soutine: Flesh at The Jewish Museum, May 4 – September 16, 2018

“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.” — Introductory Wall Text, Stephen Brown, Neubauer Family Foundation Associate Curator; Esti Dunow and Maurice Tuchman, Consulting Curators

“They say Courbet could give in his nudes all the character of Paris. I want to show all that is Paris in the carcass of an ox.” — Chaim Soutine

Chaim Soutine, Still Life with Fruit, 1919, oil on canvas. Private Collection. Photograph by Reginart Collections

Chaim Soutine, Fish, Peppers, Onions, c. 1919, oil on canvas. Barnes Foundation, Merion and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Image provided by The Barnes Foundation

Chaim Soutine, Still Life with Rayfish, c. 1924, oil on canvas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls Collection, 1997. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Image provided by The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

Chaim Soutine, Chicken Hung Before a Brick Wall, 1925, oil on canvas. Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Image provided by Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

Chaim Soutine, Hanging Turkey, c. 1925, oil on canvas. Private Collection, courtesy of McClain Gallery, Houston. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Image provided by The Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection / Art Resource, New York; photograph by Bruce M. White

Chaim Soutine, Dead Fowl, 1926, oil on canvas. Art Institute of Chicago, Joseph Winterbotham Collection, 1937.167. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Image provided by the Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY

Chaim Soutine, Hanging Turkey, c. 1925, oil on canvas. Private Collection, courtesy of McClain Gallery, Houston. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Chaim Soutine, Carcass of Beef, c. 1925, oil on canvas. Collection of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1939 (RCA1939:13.2). Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Chaim Soutine, The Rabbit, c. 1924, oil on canvas. Private collection, New York. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Joshua Nefsky

Chaim Soutine, Plucked Goose, c. 1933, oil on panel. Private Collection. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph by Joshua Nefsky.

Chaim Soutine, Sheep Behind a Fence, c. 1940, oil on canvas. Private Collection. Artwork © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Soutine at Chatel-Guyon in central France (Puy-de- Dome), 1928. Image provided by the Kluver/Martin Archive

The exhibition is organized by Stephen Brown, Neubauer Family Foundation Associate Curator, The Jewish Museum, with consulting curators Esti Dunow and Maurice Tuchman, authors of Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) catalogue raisonné (1993).

Images courtesy The Jewish Museum.