Oil on canvas
Henri Bing, Paris
François Reichenbach, Paris (until January 1951)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York (acquired as a gift from Bernard Davis in January 1951)
Perls Galleries, New York (acquired from the above in 1954)
Dr. and Mrs. Paul Todd Makler, Philadelphia (acquired from the above on December 5, 1964 and thence by descent)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Cleveland Museum of Art, Chaïm Soutine, 1950-51 (titled Ray-fish and Bread)
San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1951 (on loan)
Palm Beach, Society of the Four Arts, Paintings by Chaïm Soutine, 1894-1943, 1952, no. 20
New York, Perls Galleries, The Perls Galleries Collection of Modern French Paintings, 1955, no. 217 (titled as Ray Fish and Bread)
New York, Perls Galleries, The Perls Galleries Collection of Modern French Paintings, 1956, no. 226
New York, Perls Galleries, Modern Masters, 1960
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Chaïm Soutine, 1968, no. 63
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Chaïm Soutine, 1973, no. 33
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Bulletin, Utica, May 1952, illustrated
The Museum of Modern Art, Bulletin: Painting and Sculpture Acquisitions, July 1, 1950-June 30, 1951, Spring 1952, New York, no. 969, illustrated
M. Castaing and Jean Leymarie, Soutine, Paris, 1963, illustrated pl. V
R. Negri, L'Arte Moderna, 1967, illustrated p. 211
Pierre Courthion, Soutine. Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, fig. B, illustrated p. 257
D.C. Ditner, Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, February 1980, fig. 4, illustrated p. 46
Esti Dunow, Soutine (exhibition catalogue), Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Münster, 1981, fig. 62, illustrated p. 83
Maurice Tuchman, Esti Dunow, Klaus Perls, Chaim Soutine, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, Cologne, 1993, no. 59, illustrated p. 420
Soutine’s pictures, known for their textural bravura and focus on the sensual beauty of objects, astounded his contemporaries. Whether portraits of the working class, depictions of local monuments or dead animals, he was able to invest vernacular subjects with a raw beauty that set him apart from the rest of the avant-garde. The present work is one from a series of four compositions of stingrays hanging to dry in a fishmonger's shop. Of the four, this canvas is the only one remaining in private hands. This powerful image has captured the attention of spectators over the last century, and like Soutine's paintings of beef carcases, it has become one of the icons of modern art.
For this important series Soutine drew his inspiration for this picture from Chardin's 18th century rendition of the same subject that now hangs in the Louvre (fig. 1). "Surely not since Chardin, at any rate, had a rayfish rivited one's attention like Soutine's [...] Fearless in returning to an image so well known in French art, a picture so singular in its ability to make us feel at once repelled and seduced, Soutine nonetheless eliminates much that is most striking in Chardin's image – the cat with arching back that echoes our own sense of shock, the gooey oysters on which the feline steps [....] Soutine's picture is more vertical than horizonal, the rayfish strung across the top of the canvas like laundry on a line – or like Zurbarán's St. Serapion, a brilliantly lit martyr against a dark ground. Its 'face' still grimacing, its 'mouth' open in a 'laugh' or a 'cry,' its entrails spilling out below, the body of the fish is rendered in the most splended and subtle range of Venetian reds, burnt siennas, ochers and yellows, shifting in intensity as the light grows brighter to capture a convexity of the tender skin, or darker as the eye moves into the cavity of its wound. [....] How beautifully our revulsion is painted, how nuanced is made our unquenchable thirst for looking, how exhilarating is rendered our ignoble and enlightening desire to see!" (Kenneth E. Silver in An Expressionist in Paris, The Paintings of Chaim Soutine (exhibition catalogue), The Jewish Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Cincinnati Art Museum, 1998-99, pp. 38-39).
When this work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art for the first time in 1951, the exhibition catalogue described it as follows: "The skillful variability of Soutine's brush and palette are nowhere more apparent than in the two startilng paintings of the ray fish. The one beloning to Mr. and Mrs. Miestchaninoff (see fig. 2) is predominantly pink, of a satiny radiance and moist freshness. Mr. Reichenbach's [the present work] is less subtle but rejoices in a color scheme of sharper red, turqouise and yellow. This time, the painter's bewitchment with the subject had little to do with edibility; he has depicted it like the bad dream of a child or the villain of an animated cartoon."
The painting has been requested by Marc Restellini, Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow for the inaugural exhibition of the Pinacotheque de Paris, a retrospective of the work of Chaim Soutine, scheduled for the Spring of 2007.
Fig. 1, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin, La raie, 1728, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris
Fig. 2, Chaim Soutine, La raie, circa 1922, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus Perls
Fig. 3, Chaim Soutine, Nature morte à la raie, circa 1924, oil on canvas, The Cleveland Museum of Art. Gift of Hanna Fund
Fig. 4, Chaim Soutine, Nature morte à la raie, circa 1924, oil on canvas, Musée Calvet, Avignon
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