Chaim Soutine at the Pinacotheque de Paris
Trip Start Sep 15, 2005
164Trip End Mar 14, 2013
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Born in the Russian Pale, in the shtetl of Smilovitch to an orthodox Jewish family. Soutine defied his family's intentions of his training to be a tailor, moving first to Vilnius to study art before immigrating to France in 1913. Arriving in Paris, he moved to Montparnasse, living amongst other avant-garde artists at La Ruche (the beehive), an art colony where artists such as Chagall, Leger, Zadkine, Diego Rivera and Modigliani all lived and worked. These artists and their bohemian milieu all had a huge influence on Soutine's work, particularily Modiliani who became his closest friend
A victim of anti-semitism, Soutine did not receive the acclaim he merited in the art circles he frequented. He remained poor and in ill health much of his life. In 1923, he finally received some recognition and a degree of wealth after Guillaume Appollinaire introduced his works to the American Albert Barnes(Barnes Foundation). Barnes thought Soutine a genius. He bought 52 of Soutine's paintings, and introduced him to his future patrons, the Castaignes, Parisian tastemakers and designers who became enamored of his work. In 1937, Soutine finally showed his work at the Salon of Independents, and was well-received. Unfortunately, his fame was short-lived as the Nazis were coming to power, and he had to flee Paris.
The extraordinary collection of paintings on view spanned his entire working career and is an unusual gathering of many heretofore unseen works held in private hands
One would expect a new museum, albeit fashioned out of an historical space, would at least be technologically advanced, with proper lighting and well-thought out trajectories. Instead, we found the museum's lighting to make viewing paintings difficult--at one point I actually had to put my sunglasses on to avoid the glare on a canvas
Hopefully the museum experience itself will improve for future exhibitions, however the depth and breadth of the Soutine exhibition was certainly worth the annoyances. The questions the show presented--was he mad, is his art specifically "Jewish" in nature, can only be answered by the viewer. I came away sure that the man was at least depressed or manic--his colors and his vision alternated dramatically between the beautiful and grostesque...but isn't that what Expressionism was to become?