Went to the current Impressionist show at the Columbia Museum of Art.  Had to walk through the exhibition starting at the end as the voice of a docent at the beginning was overwhelming.  Could not think.  Over and over again she repeated about the collection “again, this is NOT typical, yadda, yadda.”  This exhibition being made up in large part from a personal collection, of course we are not going to have haystacks included here, or Seurat‘s “Grande Jatte”.  These collectors took what they could get.

columbia museum of art

Most of the usual suspects were included:  the exhibition started out with a photo of Manet‘s “Luncheon on the Grass“, which is an appropriate way to start if you are not showing the actual painting.  Of course Monet‘s “Impression: Sunrise” was also not there, the painting which inspired a surly critic to state that paintings like this were only “impressions”.  This is an atypical show, so the docent lady said.  We were seeing examples from the big artists, but not the well known images from these artists.  Totally ok.

There were a couple of Chagalls there, with their floating men and women and animals defying gravity.  Love his work.  Recently found an example of his mosaic style, if you can believe it.  Very much his imagery, produced in a way that is much more difficult to do.  This wall in in Chicago.

chagall mosaic

chagall mosaic detail

So Marc Chagall is an acclaimed Jewish artist, and this show featured another man who was new to me.  This time period has never been my major area of study, but I have read a lot.  Where was this guy?  Chaim Soutine.

He did portraits, landscapes, and images of raw rotting meat.   Artists are happily strange.    The Cola Mus of Art showed a landscape.


Here is a “rotting meat” image.  He must have been hungry.  Like prisoners reading cookbooks.


The landscapes were more modern than anything in the exhibition.  They feature an impressionist attitude towards color, but incorporate much more:  personal commentary.  The same hard head that “had” to make paintings of rotting meat could not help commenting within his work.


Chagall-like animals defy gravity in the painting above, and we can also recognize rooftops in a wonky village setting.  These unsettling rooftops however are the figures that organize this painting, they provide a little relief from the chaotic foreground or major figure.  It is in the middle and is a chaotic assembly of line and shapes.  It is the chaos that is on stage here.

Soutine. unknown. leninports chaim_soutine_gallery_1

Same here.  What is featured as subject matter is the very abstract construction of lines and shapes in the foreground.  When you have had enough, you flee to the relief of the house, tree and sky in the upper part of the composition, and then when you have your head again, you look down to the chaos to take in some more of the wild beauty.

The Impressionists were much more interested in recording atmospheres, or the reflected light of a thing.  Nature revealed in light, understandable light.  This work is much more than that.

gorge-de-loup-sur-venceAbove we see Chiam Soutine dealing with dark devil lines.  He uses complimentary colors (yellow and violet) to create the most contrast and the most energy.  The upper left fairly vibrates.  He is using what the Impressionists learned about color and taking it into a personal journey.  And don’t forget he painted slabs of rotting meat.


I say that because he must have been in the same space as Van Gogh.  The central figure in this work, a chaotic tree, looks and moves very much like many of Vincent’s olive trees in his work.  Totally dancing to their own drummer as both of these men must have been, applying their unique mental condition to paint and brush and so-called “landscape” gives us view into the soul of time and experience.   True artists stand on the shoulders of what others have discovered and transform that into their own message and time.

Have to find out more about this guy.  To go on living is to plug up those holes in one’s education!


7 thoughts on “CHAIM SOUTINE

  1. Have I known about Soutine forever ? No – I believe I’ve seen a piece in a museum fairly recently though, couldn’t say where. The name Chaim Soutine struck me (no tom, dick or harry that) and I wondered why it wasn’t familiar. As to the portrait in your piece it looked like a Modigliano to me so I checked to make sure. That is the extent of my knowledge.

  2. I didn’t know about Chaim Soutine either until I went to graduate school. In fact, he’s the reason I got into graduate school. The professors at Parsons were great Soutine fans and they thought that I painted like him. So thank goodness for Soutine!

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