Chaïm Soutine (1893 – 1943) was a French painter of Lithuanian origin. In fact, those origins inLithuania, then a territory ruled by theRussian tsars, are very important to understand his artistic creations. The truth is that Soutine lived a rather miserable childhood, in which his hunger had to be added to the general incomprehension towards his vocation as a painter.
Soutine's English Girl
That is why it is not strange that at the age of 20 he emigrated from there to settle inParis, which at that time was the great world capital of culture and art. There he began to regularly visit the museums of the city where he discovered and was admired by the works of painters such as Rembrandt or Courbet, among others. And he also established contact with other artists who came from distantRussia, like Marc Chagall orJacques Lipchitz.
Although his economic situation improved a lot, the truth is that the anguish he experienced during the first years of his life never left him. Both in his landscapes, as in his still lifes or in his portraits, he always shows us a quite harrowing vision of reality, something that related him to one of the most avant-garde currents of those years, such as Expressionism.
A good example is this portrait of The English Girl, although the truth is that it is already a worklater, because he made it around 1934 and it is currently part of the very interesting collection of the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris, which has several works by Soutine, such as The valet, The groomsman or one of his typical landscapes: The fallen tree.
Here we see one of his typical faces, in which he expresses shock and surprise, and where his usual deformities are not lacking. Something he did even when he portrayed his friends, as is the case with the portrait he made of a contemporary painter Moïse Kisling.
Another of the most common characteristics of his art that we can also see in this portrait is his characteristic color palette, featuring shades of nocturnal blue, bluish-white and the most violent variants of red, which are not here they are missing from the clothes and hair of the woman portrayed. Some red tones that he often uses to endow images of him with both desperation and cruelty.
And the fact is that the painting of Soutine above all is intense, with characters that reveal their true personalities, sometimes disproportionate and excessive, from their accused gestures, forced deformities and strong colors.