Chaim Soutine
(Smilowitschi bei Minsk, 1894-1943, Paris)
Two Pheasants, ca. 1924/25
Oil on canvas, 50 x 61 cm
Signed lower right: Soutine
Tuchmann Still Lifes 105
The shadows of the ghetto of Smilovitchi near Minsk, where Chaim Soutine was born the tenth of eleven children of a Jewish village tailor in 1894, never lifted from his life. They darkened his existence with isolation and solitude, melancholy, doubt in himself and suspicion even of his friends. They extinguished a life in a natural community and unleashed an obsessed, eruptive creativity, which was followed by periods of idle, profound resignation. Soutine's work growing out of inner compulsions, with its expressive deformations, invokes Rembrandt and is in many respects profoundly akin to the work of the lone artist van Gogh. It has practically nothing to do with Paris where Soutine arrived in 1913 ; he goes on living in the ghetto among Russian Jewish artists. Also the clarity of the light brought forth by French Impressionism does not reach him. The landscapes he paints in France, even in the sun-drenched south, are only reflections of his self-tormenting doubt, threatened by storms and shaken by earthquakes. Manet, Monet and Renoir had painted still lifes with fowl for the sake of the silky texture of the feathers, but Soutine paints them plucked and drawn with a swirling brush, the oscillating bluish-red tints hinting at incipient decay.