Lot 24
  • 24

Chaïm Soutine

7,000,000 - 9,000,000 GBP
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  • Chaïm Soutine
  • signed Soutine (upper right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 109.2 by 63.5cm.
  • 43 by 25in.


Léopold Zborowski, Paris (acquired by 1928)
Pierre Loeb, Paris (acquired by 1932)
Marcel Fleischmann, Zurich (acquired in 1939 and until circa 1945-46)
Theodore Schempp, New York (acquired circa 1945-46 and until April 1946)
Mr & Mrs Leigh B. Block, Chicago (acquired in April 1946; until October 1954)
Paul Rosenberg & Co., New York (acquired in October 1954; until February 1955)
Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., New York (acquired in February 1955; until 1977)
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York
The Armand Hammer Collection, Los Angeles (1977-1990)
The Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, Los Angeles (1990-2007)
The Armand Hammer Foundation, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner


San Francisco, Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate International Exposition. Contemporary European Paintings, 1940, no. 701
Williamstown, Williams College (and travelling), Twenty Twentieth Century Paintings, 1940-41
New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Cleveland, Museum of Art, Soutine, 1950-51, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1929)
Portland, Art Museum; Seattle, Art Museum; San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor; Los Angeles, County Museum; Minneapolis, Institute of Arts; St. Louis, City Art Museum; Kansas City, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art; Detroit, Institute of Arts & Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 1956-57, no. 99, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from 1929)
Provincetown, Chrysler Art Museum, Inaugural Exhibition, 1958, no. 59, illustrated in the catalogue
Dayton, Art Institute, French Paintings, 1789-1929, from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 1960, no. 120, illustrated in the catalogue
Provincetown, Chrysler Art Museum & Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada, The Controversial Century: 1850-1950. Paintings from the Collection of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 1962, illustrated in the catalogue
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery & Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, The Armand Hammer Collection: Four Centuries of Masterpieces, 1978, no. 52, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1929)
Oslo, National Gallery of Norway, The Armand Hammer Collection: From Rembrandt to Picasso, 1978-79, no. 52, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, The Armand Hammer Collection: From Rembrandt to Chagall, 1979, no. 52, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, The Armand Hammer Collection: Four Centuries of Masterpieces, 1979-80, no. 55, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery and School of Art; West Palm Beach, Norton Gallery and School of Art; Cincinnati, Art Museum; Lexington, University of Kentucky Art Museum; Beijing, China Art Gallery; West Virginia, Huntington Galleries; Los Angeles, County Museum of Art; Budapest, Fine Arts Museum of Hungary; Sofia, National Gallery of Art; Belgrade, National Museum; Prague, National Gallery of Art; Tulsa, Philbrook Art Center; Los Angeles, County Museum of Art & Jerusalem, Israel Museum, The Armand Hammer Collection: Five Centuries of Masterpieces, 1980-85, no. 50, illustrated in the catalogue 
Albuquerque Museum & Alabama, Birmingham Museum of Art, The Armand Hammer Collection, 1985, no. 50, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
West Palm Beach, Norton Gallery and School of Art & Palm Springs, Desert Museum, The Armand Hammer Collection: Five Centuries of Masterpieces, 1985-86, no. 123, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum; Moscow, State Art Gallery; Novosibirsk, Regional Picture Gallery; Odessa, Fine Art Museum; Kiev, State Museum of Ukrainian Fine Arts & Tbilisi, State Museum of the Georgian S.S.R., The Armand Hammer Collection: Five Centuries of Masterpieces, 1986-87, no. 123, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Louisville, J.B. Speed Art Museum, The Armand Hammer Collection, 1987, no. 123, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Holyoke, Heritage State Park, Selected Works of the Armand Hammer Collection, 1987, no. 123, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
West Palm Beach, The Norton Museum of Art (on loan 2007-09)


Waldemar George, Artistes juifs: Soutine, Paris, 1928, illustrated
Elie Faure, 'Sutin', in Musaion, Prague, 1929-30, illustrated p. 101
Maurice Sachs, 'Soutine', in Creative Art, vol. 11, no. 4, New York, December 1932, illustrated p. 277
Alfred Werner, 'Chaim Soutine: Self-Liberation Through Art', in Chicago Jewish Forum, vol. 10, no. 3, Chicago, Spring 1952, illustrated p. 177
'Living with the Great', in Vogue, 1st October 1952, p. 118
'The Chrysler Collection', in Arts, vol. 30, no. 6, March 1956, illustrated p. 35
Marcellin Castaing & Jean Leymarie, Soutine, Paris & Lausanne, 1963, illustrated pl. XVI
Metropolitan Museum of Art, French Paintings, New York, 1967, vol. III, p. 244
Pierre Courthion, Soutine. Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, fig. B, illustrated p. 267
John Walker (ed.), The Armand Hammer Collection. Five Centuries of Masterpieces, New York, 1980, no. 53, illustrated in colour
Maurice Tuchman, Esti Dunow & Klaus Perls, Chaim Soutine, Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1993, vol. II, no. 104, illustrated in colour p. 667


The canvas is lined. There appears to be a repair to the canvas which runs down part of the left framing edge. This area does not fluoresce under ultra-violet light. There is a thin diagonal line of retouching across the figure's forehead, some fine lines of retouching filling in the craquelure on his cheek and chin, some fine lines of infilling in the red pigment of his waistcoat, and two small areas of retouching on the upper framing edge, visible under ultra-violet light. There may be some further retouchings beneath the varnish layer, which are not visible under ultra-violet light. Otherwise this work is in good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although fresher, richer and more varied in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Portraying a young boy, only identified by his valet uniform, Le Valet de chambre epitomises Soutine's portraiture of the middle and late 1920s, characterised by a great expressiveness of pose, rhythmically charged brushstrokes and strong colour contrasts. Regardless of the age, social status, or the artist's personal involvement with the sitter, Soutine's portraits are imbued with a strong physical presence, as well as with a uniqueness and individuality of his subjects. As the authors of the Catalogue raisonné of Soutine's work have commented: 'While his portraits do convey inner realities and make spiritual statements, they are primarily rooted in concrete perception. Though Soutine may project his inner turbulence and most personal feelings onto his subjects, the viewer never loses sight of a particular physical entity being carefully observed and experienced. Even the distortions and exaggerations of facial features and the shiftings and dislocations of body parts do not destroy the essential recognition in each painting of a certain person and a reality specific to him or her' (M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & K. Perls, op. cit., p. 509).


Whilst Soutine occasionally painted portraits of his friends, fellow artists, patrons and several self-portraits, he usually preferred to depict anonymous sitters. The people, whom the artist encountered in everyday life, were identified by their professions and uniforms, such as page boys (fig. 1), valets and pastry chefs (fig. 2). This shift from portraying people from his own social circle towards less known figures parallels that of his close friend and fellow artist Amedeo Modigliani who, having left Paris and moved to the French Riviera, executed a number of portraits of children, peasants, servants and shop girls. Le Valet de chambre bears resemblance, for example, to Modigliani's Le Petit paysan (fig. 3): both are portraits of unidentified boys, seated frontally in a similar plain interior, with mannerist, elongated facial features. Although both artists sought to emphasise the emotional, inner state of their sitters, Soutine's boy, rendered in quick, sharp brushstrokes, reflects a sense of angst and unease, Modigliani's portrait has a dreamy, melancholic atmosphere.


'Soutine generally chose anonymous figures as models. But as much as his characters may become types, they never give up their identities as particular people. Soutine's insistence on the physical particularity of his subject, together with this move towards more anonymous sitters, demonstrates his resistance to completely losing himself in the subjective aspects of the portrait experience. This resistance to a complete union between painter and model is also felt in the way Soutine's figures "pose" before him and us, open to our penetrating scrutiny, but somehow indifferent to the artist's presence [...]. It is the tension between their seeming detachment, on the one hand, and an awareness of Soutine's personal involvement with them, on the other, that heightens the expressive charge of these figures' (ibid., pp. 509-510).


Although Soutine painted a wide range of sitters throughout his career, the formal arrangements of these portraits remained consistent: his sitters are usually rendered seated, occasionally standing, in half-length or three-quarter-length pose. These figures, often facing frontally and clothed in formal dress, create a sense of posing, rather than a spontaneously captured likeness. Le Valet de chambre is no exception: the boy is depicted frontally, seated on a stool facing the artist, dressed in his valet's uniform. Another recurring feature is the elongated shape of the head, often with a long nose, large protruding ears and deep, expressive eyes. The background, painted in deep blue tones, is bare and, apart from describing an interior setting, does not offer any clues as to the surrounding in which the sitter is depicted. This deliberate lack of detail takes the viewer's focus away from the potential narrative of the painting, and centres our attention to the physical and emotional power of the portrait. The energy and expressive force of Le Valet de chambre is evocative of the angst-ridden self-portraits of Van Gogh, as well as of his depictions of semi-anonymous sitters the artist encountered in everyday life (fig. 4).


Le Valet de chambre belonged to a number of important collections, including Soutine's first dealer Zborowski, the Chicago collector Leigh B. Block and Walter P. Crysler, Jr. For many years the work was in the collection of Armand Hammer, the well known Californian businessman and art collector, as well as a co-owner of the Hammer Galleries in New York. The work remained in Hammer's possession until his death in 1990, during which time it was extensively exhibited as one of the masterpieces of the collection. This and other works from his private collection formed the core of the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Culture Center in California, which opened to the public in November 1990, only weeks before Hammer's death.


Fig. 1, Chaïm Soutine, Le groom, circa 1925, oil on canvas, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris

Fig. 2, Chaïm Soutine, Le Pâtissier au mouchoir rouge, circa 1922-23, oil on canvas, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

Fig. 3, Amedeo Modigliani, Le Petit paysan, circa 1918, oil on canvas, Tate Gallery, London                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Fig. 4, Vincent van Gogh, Le Facteur Joseph Roulin, 1888, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Fig. 5, Soutine at Le Blanc, 1926