Chaim Soutine: Expressionism From Poverty and Pain

Chaim Soutine, born in 1893, was destined to become an artist. However, as a child growing up in a small Jewish settlement in Russia and the tenth of eleven children in a dirt poor family, this was not clear. In fact, at first he was beaten by his own older brothers because at this time a "true" Jew was forbidden to draw. Similarly, at the age of 15, Chaim offered to draw a portrait of an old man, which then also resulted in a beating from the sons of the old man. The beating was so severe that his mother took the complaint to court and was awarded 25 rubles, which paid for Soutine to go to art school in Minsk. From there he moved to Vilnus for more studies. Finally he left to Paris in 1913.

In Paris, Soutine became friends with the Italian artist Modigliani . Along with influencing his portrait style, Modigliani kept him from starving, and introduced him to his art dealer Leopold Zborowski. Seeing a need for the artist to leave the struggle and influences of Paris, Zborowski sent Soutine to the village of Ceret. In his three years there, he produced 200 paintings and developed his own vision to its most extreme expression.

Although he later became disgusted by the intensity of this period and tried to destroy all of the canvases that he could get his hands on, the paintings in this time period are the ones on which his legend is made. Violent colors slash through swirling tree limbs, elongated and distorted human figures melt in front of cottages or seem to be pulling back in terror. This was expressionism on the verge of the abstract meaning that the details of reality are always there, if you choose to see them.

It took a while for the influence of Soutine to be recognized by other artists. While the distorted imagery and emotionally intense brush strokes were part of his success as a modern French artist, they later also became the foundation of the post World War II Abstract Expressionist movement in the United States. William de Kooning, who said that Soutine is his favorite painter, has a brush stroke that might be described as "calm Chaim."

The work of Soutine lacks playfulness. It lacks irony. His portraits are of serious people whose principle expression is hunger . For example, his painfully honest painting of a cow carcass hung like it's a crucifix, or an empty place setting on a table except for a dead animal or shallot. The influence of the poverty he endured and the beatings he took for drawing pictures never left his work. And the influence of his paintings is not likely to leave the art world.

Source by Julia Palatinus

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