I had not noticed the work of Chaïm Soutine before, until I visited the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume collection at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. This museum has the largest collection of paintings by Soutine in Europe.
Jewish-French Chaïm Soutine was born in 1893 in Smilowitchi (White Russia) and died in Paris in 1943. He already left to France before the First World War. The themes of his work often incorporate his Jewish background. His biggest inspiration was Rembrandt. Soutine used thick brushstrokes, expressionist distortions and bright colors.
From the corner of my eye I saw a caricature portrait of a man with mustache, Portrait of a Man (1922), when entering the Soutine exhibition hall. Just that peep already gave me a smile on the face. The second painting that caught my attention was a wavy row of houses, Houses (1921). The twisted houses resemble the lush brush strokes of Van Gogh. In the end, it was Plucked Chicken (1925) that made me interested in the painter Soutine. The bursting blue does not immediately reveal the hanged and naked chicken in the painting, it is almost a picture puzzle. The other works of plucked poultry and rabbits, beside the distorted carcasses of beef, reminded me of the work of Francis Bacon, with spotty and carnal distortions.
For his still lifes, Soutine often painted dead animals with their dramatic fate. Butchered, cruel and helpless hanged. Nature as a metaphor for a state of mind. This is exactly how his paintings in the exhibition area appeared to me: psychiatric patients and madness that have been imaged on the paintings or psychiatric patients who painted them. Although his themes are about melancholy, tragedy and death, his style of thick layered paint and expressionistic brushstrokes make it joyful to watch.
Food was also a favorite subject in Soutine’s still lifes, perhaps recalling the hunger of his early years or the food rituals of his religious background. Works below hang in various museums, galleries and private collections.