Pierre Courthion, Soutine, Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, illustrated p. 289
Chaïm Soutine 1893-1943 (exhibition catalogue), Marlborough Gallery, Inc., New York, 1973, illustrated p. 92 (titled Woman with Umbrella)
Not only did this lifestyle make it logistically difficult for Soutine to paint, it also made the very inspiration to paint ebb. “He continued his wandering in search for the right landscape, the right model” (M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & K. Perls, Chaïm Soutine, Catalogue Raisonné, vol. I, Cologne, 1993, p. 25). For this reason, works by Soutine from the 1940s are quite rare. In August of 1943, Soutine died during surgery—overdue treatment that was delayed because of the political backdrop and ongoing war. From these difficult final three years of his life, less than fifteen paintings, including Femme en rouge assise sur un banc, are recorded.
Despite these tumultuous conditions, the present work retains classical elements of Soutine’s renowned style and unique skill. His dazzling palette of red, blue, and green recalls the portraits he produced earlier in his career of anonymous subjects only identifiable by their work—such as cooks and waiters. In this case, the anonymity is emphasized further with the work’s title Femme en rouge assise sur un banc. Esti Dunow and Maurice Tuchman argue that Soutine’s portraits, although anonymous, do not rid the subjects of their human identity; rather, his focus on physical features and expressions places the objective over the subjective.
Exhibiting archetypes of Soutine’s brilliant portraiture, Femme en rouge assise sur un banc has caught the eye of famed and discerning collectors. André Meyer, a powerful investment banker of the 1900s, owned this work as part of his vast and diverse collection. Meyer was a French-born Jew who came to the United States during the war years and began to create his legacy as—in the words of David Rockefeller—“the most creative financial genius of our time in the investment banking world” (quoted in C. Reich, Financier: The Biography of Andre Meyer, New York, 1998). Much of Meyer’s art now adorns the walls of the galleries of The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Renowned designer Mollie Parnis Livingston owned the present work between 1956 and 1992. She built a multimillion-dollar dress business during her lifetime, dressing First Ladies from Mamie Eisenhower to Betty Ford. She dedicated her wealth to the beautification of New York and Jerusalem as well as building an impressive collection of Impressionist art (M. Berger, “Mollie Parnis, Designer, Dies in the 90’s” in The New York Times, July 12 1992).
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