This painting will be included in the forthcoming Volume III of the Chaim Soutine Catalogue Raisonne by Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, currently in preparation.
“No, I assure you, this Soutine (signed, Soutin) is beautiful, very beautiful, beautiful like a man, like a brain (a painter’s brain).”
Extract from a letter to Jean Paulhan, 1932, Fonds Arland, bibliothèque Jacques Doucet
Marcel Arland was quick to express his admiration for Soutine’s vibrant brush strokes after he saw this painting for the first time. “One day I arrived at the Hôtel Drouot auction house [...] and the bid caller was brandishing a painting, which, say what you will, from first sight caused a lump in my throat. Silence. Not one hand went up. I raised mine. When they handed over the painting, when I dared look at it, afraid of having made an error - was it all an illusion? Well! That was the start of a long and enduring love.” (Marcel Arland, Dans l’amitié de la peinture, Paris, 1980, p.246).
Soutine arrived in Paris in 1913 and lived in the artists’ residence, La Ruche, where he socialised with Chagall, Lipchitz and Zadkine. Later, he moved to the Cité Falguière, where he shared his studio with Modigliani. In addition to his numerous portraits and landscapes, another genre that the artist was particularly fond of was still-life. He was inspired by Cézanne whose influence on Soutine’s work is well-known and undisputed. “This way that Cézanne has of meticulously carving and fragmenting the space in which shapes are enclosed, compressing the “flat solids” became more than a simple painterly technique for Soutine. The artist transforms this artistic construction into an extremely personal metaphor: it becomes a way of expressing this inevitable fusion of form and subject, this personification of shapes, of flesh and of pigment; fundamental in his landscapes, his still-lifes and his portraits” (Chaïm Soutine, Galerie Thomas, Munich, 2009, p. 65).
Marcel Arland described Soutine’s work thus: “A fight begins with the world that [Soutine] embraces, with the subject that must come alive at the slightest stroke of the brush...” (Marcel Arland, Dans l’amitié de la peinture, Paris, 1980, p.246). While it retains a powerful naturalism, Soutine’s style, rich in subject and impasto, seems to absorb the surface of the canvas. The geometric shapes of the objects served as a foundation, or pretext, for the composition. The crust of bread is gnarled and knobbly, much like the whirlwind that we are led into by the depth of the empty bowl. Subject and colour overlap, with yellows, reds and especially greens, merging together. Nonetheless, each object is celebrated; placed in the foreground as a distinct entity. This treatment demonstrates the artist’s increasing fascination with the expressive power of individual objects. He gives the objects on the table - a fish, a baguette and a tuba lying on the carcass of a ray fish - ambiguous form: flattened yet at the same time presenting the foreshortening of the cubist perspective. The objects find themselves in a diagonal compilation, in a harmony of diverse shades of vivid greens. This painting is thus a perfect example of the artist's aesthetic, combining the traditional subject with an emotive and animated style.