“Someone has killed Soutine!”

chaim-soutine-the-page-boyThe Page Boy” by Chaïm Soutine (ca.1927) oil on canvas (98cm x80cm).

Russian painter of Belorussian Jewish origin Chaïm Soutine (Sutin) was born on January 13, 1893, in Smilavichy near Minsk; the tenth of eleven children.

From 1910 to 1913 he studied in Vilnius at the Vilna Academy of Fine Arts.  Then, in 1913 he emigrated to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts where he developed a highly personal vision and painting technique. For a time, he and his friends lived at La Ruche, a residence for struggling artists in Montparnasse, where he became friends with Amedeo Modigliani (who painted Soutine’s portrait several times).

Soutine played a major role as part of the Abstract Expressionist Movement in Paris where he developed an individual style more concerned with shape, colour and texture.

chaim-soutine-english-woman-ca-1932Soutine once horrified his neighbours by keeping an animal carcass in his studio so that he could paint it – (Carcass of Beef). The stench drove them to send for the police, whom Soutine promptly lectured on the relative importance of art over hygiene. Supposedly, the artist Marc Chagall saw the blood from the carcass leak out onto the corridor outside Soutine’s room; and rushed out screaming, ‘Someone has killed Soutine!” – but obviously this was not true.

  • Soutine produced the majority of his works from 1920 to 1929.
  • From 1930 to 1935, the interior designer Madeleine Castaing and her husband welcomed him to their summer home, the mansion of Lèves, becoming his patrons, so that Soutine could hold his first exhibition in Chicago in 1935.
  • He seldom showed his works, but he did take part in The Origins and Development of International Independent Art, held at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, in Paris, in 1937.

After France was invaded by German troops; and to avoid arrest by the Gestapo; as a Jew, Soutine had to escape from Paris. He moved from one place to another and was sometimes forced to seek shelter by sleeping outdoors in forests.

However, during 1943,after suffering from a stomach ulcer and bleeding badly, he left a safe hiding place for Paris in order to undergo emergency surgery, which failed to save his life.

  • On August 9, 1943, Chaïm Soutine died of a perforated ulcer and was interred at the Cimetière du Montparnasse, in Paris.

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Source: Dorival, Bernard. The School of Paris in the Musee  D’Art Moderne. Thames & Hudson, London 1962
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