Lot 42
  • 42

Chaïm Soutine

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Chaïm Soutine
  • La Femme en rouge au fond bleu
  • Signed Soutine (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas


Jos. Hessel, Paris

Jacques Laroche, Paris

George Keller, New York & Davos (acquired by 1943)

Carroll Carstairs Gallery, New York (acquired by 1949)

Mr. & Mrs. Walter Ross, New York (acquired from the above by 1957 and sold: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, October 21, 1964, lot 38)

McRoberts & Tunnard Gallery, London (acquired at the above sale)

Perls Galleries, New York (acquired by 1967 and until 1972)

Alex Maguy, Paris (acquired by 1972 and until 1973)

Private Collection, Japan (and sold: Sotheby's New York, November 5, 1981, lot 233)

Perls Galleries, New York (acquired at the above sale and until 1985)

Acquired from the above in 1985


New York, Bignou Gallery, A Selection of Paintings of the Twentieth Century, 1943, no. 16 (titled The Red Dress)

New York, Bignou Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Soutine, 1943, no. 15 (titled The Red Dress)

Montreal, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Manet to Matisse, An Exhibition of 19th and 20th Century French Paintings, 1949, no. 39 (titled Femme en rouge and dated 1932)

New York, Perls Galleries, 24 Major Acquisitions, 1968, no. 21, illustrated in color on the cover (titled Jeune femme au fond bleu and dated 1928)

New York, Perls Galleries, Chaim Soutine (1893-1943), 1969, no. 18, illustrated in color in the catalogue (dated 1928)

Paris, Alex Maguy, Présence de la peinture, 1972

Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 1996, n.n, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Connoisseur, vol. 172, London, no. 693, November 1969, illustrated p. ccxvii

Pierre Courthion, Soutine. Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, illustrated p. 258 (titled La Femme du Cordonnier II and dated 1926-27)

A. Soutine, L'Amateur d'Art (exhibition catalogue), 1973, illustrated p. 14

The Evelyn Sharp Collection (exhibition catalogue), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1978, discussed p. 90

Maurice Tuchman, Esti Dunow & Klaus Perls, Chaim Soutine: Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1993, vol. II, no. 123, illustrated in color p. 692

IFAR Journal, vol. 10, no. 3/4, 2008/09, listed p. 57 & illustrated in color on the inside back cover

Catalogue Note

La Femme en rouge au fond bleu exemplifies Soutine’s portraiture style after 1922, characterized by the highly expressive, dramatic use of color and the distortion of the sitter’s body. The vast majority of Soutine’s human images are single portraits, usually seated figures, half or three-quarter-length. While the male sitters are almost all young men or boys wearing some type of uniform – pastry cooks, choir boys and waiters – the women are not so easily identified. In the present portrait of an unidentified woman Soutine models her face through the interaction of red and blue which is echoed in the stark contrasts between the red dress and deep blue background. A certain confrontational quality characteristic of Soutine’s portraits is present in La Femme en rouge au fond bleu, achieved not only through energetic brushstrokes and the striking color scheme but also through the positioning of the subject close to the picture plane and the flattening of the perspective.

In discussing a similar work from the same period, Maïthé Vallès-Bled commented: "The model’s beautiful red dress and jewellery would lead one to suppose that she is an actress or a singer. She may also have been a guest in one of the grand hotels that the artist sometimes visited. His taste for beautiful clothes, which is not apparent in any of his previous works, now comes to the fore in some of his portraits. Soutine, who but a few years prior to this had lived in conditions of poverty and neglect, now began to cultivate his appearance. He wore clothes by the finest designers, loved to wear hats and even had his hands regularly manicured. The model’s pose is elegant and her hair is painted with great care" (M. Vallès-Bled, Chaïm Soutine (exhibition catalogue), Museo d’Art Moderna, Lugano, 1995, p. 173).

Monroe Wheeler writes of Soutine’s depictions of the human figure: “This is pure portraiture. He selects the salient features of these persons, their intensive gaze, outstanding ears, huge interworking hands, and renders them to excess with only summary indication of the body which he then cloaks in the magnificences of the palette. They are unforgettable” (M. Wheeler, Soutine, New York, 1950, p. 65). The brightness and contrast of reds and blues in La Femme en rouge au fond bleu is further heightened by sparing touches of yellow and ruddy peach.

Discussing the composition of Soutine’s works, the artist Jack Tworkov commented: “Soutine’s painting technically defies analysis of how to do it. But it is precisely this impenetrability to logical analysis as far as his method is concerned, that quality of the surface which appears as if it had happened rather than was ‘made,’ which unexpectedly reminds us of the most original section of the new painting in this country. Viewed from the standpoint of certain painters, like De Kooning and perhaps Pollock…. Certain qualities of composition, certain attitudes towards paint which have gained prestige here as the most advanced painting, are expressed in Soutine in unpremeditated form. These can be summarized as: the way his picture moves towards the edge of the canvas in centrifugal waves filling it to the brim; his completely impulsive use of pigment as a material, generally thick, slow-flowing, viscous, with a sensual attitude toward it, as if it were the primordial material, with deep and vibratory color; the absence of any effacing of the tracks bearing the imprint of the energy passing over the surface. The combined effect is a full, packed, dense picture of enormous seriousness and grandeur, lacking all embellishment or any concession to decoration” (quoted in C. Soutine, 1893-1943 (exhibition catalogue), Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschicht, Munster; Kunsthalle Tubingen, Tubingen; Hayward Gallery, London & Kunstmuseum Luzerne, Lucerne, 1981-82, p. 56).