London, The Arts Council of Great Britain, Chaïm Soutine, 1965, no. 24, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Wildenstein & Co., The Dr. and Mrs. Harry Bakwin Collection, 1967, no. 43, illustrated in the catalogue
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Chaïm Soutine 1893-1943, 1968, no. 41, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Perls Galleries, Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943), 1969, no. 13, illustrated in color in the catalogue
Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie des Tuileries, Soutine, 1973, no. 20
New York, Galleri Bellman, Soutine, (1894-1943), 1983-84, no. 15, illustrated in the catalogue
Lugano, Museo d’Arte Moderna della Città di Lugano, Chaïm Soutine, 1995, no. 57, illustrated in color in the catalogue
New York, The Jewish Museum; Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Museum of Art & Cincinnati, Cincinnati Museum of Art, An Expressionist in Paris: The Paintings of Chaïm Soutine, 1998-99, no. 12, illustrated in the catalogue
Maurice Tuchman, “Portraits de Soutine” in Art de France, 1964, pp. 214-15, illustrated in color p. 207
Andrew Forge, Soutine, 1965, no. 21, illustrated in color p. 40
Renata Negri, Soutine, Milan, 1966, illustrated in color pl. 4
Gordon Brown, “Month in Review” in Arts, vol. 42, no. 2, New York, November 1967, illustrated p. 49
Renata Negri, “Soutine” in L’Arte Moderna, vol. 10, no. 87, Milan, 1967, illustrated in color p. 213
Henri Serouya, Soutine, Paris, 1967, illustrated in color pl. IV
H. Harvard Arnason, History of Modern Art, New York, 1968, p. 277, illustrated in color pl. 113
Soutine (exhibition catalogue), The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 1968, illustrated in color pl. 4
Alfred Werner, Jewish Chronicle Literary Supplement, December 1, 1972, illustrated p. IV
Pierre Courthion, Soutine. Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, illustrated in color p. 71 & in various states p. 214 (titled Femme en rouge I and dated 1921-22)
Michel Conil Lacoste, “Le Tourment de Soutine” in Le Monde, Paris, April 27, 1973, n.p.
André Miramas, “La Vie de Soutine” in L’Amateur d’Art, no. 517, Paris, 1973, illustrated p. 10
Barbara Scott, “Letter from Paris: Soutine and Some Others” in Apollo, vol. 98, no. 138, London, August 1973, p. 142
Alfred Werner, American Artist, New York, December 1973, illustrated p. 51
Isabelle Fontaine & Dominique Bozo, “Exposition, Orangerie des Tuileries, Soutine” in Revue du Louvre, vol. 23, no. 3, Paris, 1973, p. 202
Jacques Lassaigne, Soutine, Paris, 1973, no. 4, illustrated in color n.p.
Grand Collection of World Art: Modigliani and the School of Paris, no. 24, Tokyo, 1975, illustrated p. 115
Alfred Werner, Chaïm Soutine, New York, 1977, illustrated in color p. 88
C. Soutine 1893-1943 (exhibition catalogue), Westfälisches Landesmuseum, Munster; Kunsthalle, Tubingen; Hayward Gallery, London & Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, 1981-82, pp. 85 & 67, illustrated p. 61
Nancy Princenthal, “Chaïm Soutine. Galleri Bellman” in Art News, vol. 83, no. 3, New York, March 1984, p. 209
Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) (exhibition catalogue), Galleria Bergamini, Milan, 1987, n.p.
Maurice Tuchman, Esti Dunow & Klaus Perls, Chaim Soutine (1893-1943), Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1993, no. 66, illustrated in color p. 613
An Expressionist in Paris: The Paintings of Chaim Soutine (exhibition catalogue), The Jewish Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles & Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, 1998-99, fig. 50, illustrated p. 90
Gregory Selch, ed., The Bakwin Collection, Paintings and Sculpture, 1925-1970, Collected by Drs. Ruth & Harry Bakwin, New York, 2004, illustrated in color n.p.
One of the most exquisitely crafted portraits of Soutine’s oeuvre, La Femme en rouge comes from the artist’s renaissance period in Cagnes between 1922-1925. Departing from the feverish and starkly angular landscapes of the preceding years in Céret, Soutine during this time renders the human form with a patience and revealing intimacy not yet seen in his work.
The artist’s long-favored use of red comes fully into bloom in the present work, radiating luminous tonalities in the ample folds of fabric. Mellifluously painted in broad, elliptical brushstrokes, La Femme en rouge shows a marked deliberation in its construction and balanced composition. Compared to his earlier Woman in Blue (see fig. 1), the present work witnesses an increased attention to light and shadow, as well as a pronounced inclination toward painterly elegance and psychological nuance. The thickly layered, kaleidoscopic patches of pigment of the Woman in Blue give way to a more fluidly rendered allocation of oranges and reds. Balancing the warmer hues in the present work are the masterful additions of green throughout the background and along the collarbone and fingers. Absent too is the stilted posture of the earlier canvas, replaced in the present work by a relaxed seated position which sees a melding of chair and sitter. Considered by some as a pendant to La Femme en rouge is Soutine's circa 1924 work, Woman in Pink, which reiterates the melodious S-curve and thin painting of the present work with a less decisive rendering of the form (see fig. 2).
Soutine’s portraits from this time reveal a deep investigation of the human type, none more so than La Femme en rouge. The woman depicted in this work, who in reality remains unknown, presents an air of dignified grace as her gaze reaches out to meet the viewer. With measured flamboyance, the wide blossom of her dark blue hat echoes the gentle curves of her shoulder, filling the frame and drawing attention to the face below. In works from this period, Soutine yearns to deliver not just the likeness of his subject, but the more meaningful ethos of the sitter before him. With her arched brow and wry smile, the woman in red presents an attitude all her own, leaving behind an impression at once mesmerizing and memorable.
In his 1951 review of The Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, the great American art critic Clement Greenberg praised the present work as the artist’s greatest portrait, applauding La Femme en rouge as “the only one to which I would give my full assent” (op. cit., p. 85). By the time of the 1950 exhibition, however, “improvements” had been made to attenuate the length and volume of the hat, as well as to smooth the woman’s shoulders (see figs. 3 & 4). Photographic evidence shows that by the 1963 exhibition, such alterations had been cleaned, restoring the lady in red to her original glory, as she appears today.
In addition to the unparalleled portraiture epitomized by La Femme en rouge, Soutine’s Cagnes period, and occasional interludes in Paris, allowed for another outlet of his studio practice. Inspired once again by the great masters, Soutine looked to Chardin and Rembrandt in the subsequent creation of his most arresting still lifes. Painted around the same year as the present work, Soutine's Still Life with Rayfish (see fig. 5) captures a succulent range of reds and pinks; the juicy entrails of the aquatic creature melding into the fruits below and recalling the lush and winding folds of the woman's dress, lips and cheeks. It is this intensive study of flesh and the hours spent observing townspeople and rotting carcasses which sets Soutine apart—his precarious balance of repulsion and elegance leaving an indelible marks on the psyche of the viewer.
It was likely Soutine's fervor and the ensuing artistic output which attracted his closest friends supporters like Modigliani, writer Francis Carco and dealer Léopold Zborowski. A documentarian of the Bohemian lifestyle, Francis Carco frequented the local haunts and studios of the School of Paris mainstays, penning amusing vignettes which featured Modigliani, Soutine, Picasso, Utrillo, Vlaminck and their confrères. Detailing his first encounter with the famously uncouth artist, Carco described Soutine as an "uncultivated" individual, "who that evening, brought in the canvas which he smeared upon that day, sat himself in a corner and begged Modigliani to recite some verses. Zborowski, who was a poet, spoke his in turn. Soutine listened to them. His painting, which unsettled vendors and connoisseurs, accumulated in all the rooms. We'd take a painting, look at it, and place it back against the wall. 'You see...What an artist!' affirmed Zborowski, in a serious manner... I asked the price of a Coq mort aux tomates. 'Ah! said Zbo suddenly reassured. You like it?' He gave it to me" (F. Carco, L’Ami des peintres, Paris, 1944, p. 44).
Like the Coq mort aux tomates in Carco's retelling, Femme en rouge was presumably acquired by Carco just after its completion circa 1924, later to be auctioned at his 1925 sale at Drouot and sold to Zborowski. Zbo, as he was affectionately nicknamed, would continue to represent Soutine throughout his career and prove critical in the artist's success after brokering a considerable sale to Albert Barnes in 1922. Though Soutine would continue painting portraits until his death in 1943, the works from his Cagnes period remain the most lucid, probing and resoundingly lyrical of the artist's career.
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