Soutine arrived in Paris in 1913 and lived in the artists’ residence, La Ruche, where he met and became friends with Chagall, Lipchitz and Zadkine. Later, he moved to the Cité Falguière, where he shared his studio with Modigliani. Aside from his many portraits and still lifes, he was interested in the depiction of nature in its rawest state. Thus he began to depict Falguière, the streets of Clamart where he visited his friend Kikoïne, and other surrounding landscapes. The beauty of the neighbouring countryside gave him the opportunity to develop a powerful naturalism where nature at its most glorious take centre stage. In the present work, nature seems to overtake man. Though we glimpse some mysterious ochre-red buildings at the background of the composition signalling human interaction, these are not the subject of the painting; Soutine rather focuses on the greenery of the foliage which occupies the whole of the foreground and the two trees which cut the composition into two distinct parts.
Cézanne’s art had a profound influence on Soutine, wonderfully demonstrated in the present work: ‘The way in which Cézanne rigorously cropped and fragmented the space surrounding his forms, this crushing of "solids into flat planes" became more than a mere pictorial technique for Soutine. The artist transformed this visual construction into an extremely personal metaphor: it became a way of expressing this inevitable fusion of forms and subjects, this personification of forms, flesh and pigments, fundamental in his landscapes, his still lives and portraits’ (Chaim Soutine, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Thomas, Munich, 2009, p. 65).
While the foliage of the trees and the verticality of their trunks dominate and enliven the canvas, the tall grasses, rushes and clumps serve as the bedrock of the composition. Aside from this structure and the classic framing – remaining faithful to the view that is before his eyes – Soutine's rich painting style thickens, his palette lightens, the colours diversify and absorb the surface of the canvas, heralding the explosion of tones that would appear in the Mediterranean pictures just a few weeks later. Soutine's pictures, known for their textural bravura and emotional presence, astounded his contemporaries and are still relevant to art and artists today.
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