On October 24, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts opens the first major exhibition in Russia by Chaim Soutine, a contemporary of Picasso and Modigliani, a restless and expressive artist, author of disturbing and disproportionate paintings that influenced the work of Kooning, Rothko, Pollock and Bacon (whose works also included in the exposition of retrospectives). At the request of Life around, Alexei Pavperov spoke about the main stages of the life and work of the painter.
Hunger, childhood in the countryside and alcohol
The artist Khaim Sutin was born in the impoverished Belarusian village of Smilovichi in 1893. He spent his childhood in poverty, dirt, disorder. Soutine was the eleventh child in a Jewish family of a low-paid tailor, who was often rude and cruel to his household. He was constantly malnourished - sometimes he grabbed a bulb, a potato or a piece of bread and ran into the forest, hid among the trees, spent the night in the field in order to eventually return home and take the inevitable punishment.
Soutine compensated for the grayness and intolerance of the surrounding reality by the powerful work of the imagination - the child watched a lot of nature, transformed his impressions into mesmerizing fantastic forms, and could burst into tears from unusually bright events. Over time, loved ones recognized in him a penchant for artistic craft. With the support of a local rabbi and a loving mother, Soutine refuses to continue the family business - together with another future painter of the Paris School, Mikhail Kikoyin, they go to Minsk to learn mastery from the local artist Kruger. A year later, young people continue their education in Vilna, where they find a new like-minded person - Paul (Pinhus) Kremen. After three years, Soutine's mentors sent him to Paris. Anti-Semitism in the Russian Empire at that time was still fixed at the state level - the European capital of art is closer to a poor Jewish artist than St. Petersburg.
Already in Vilna, Soutine begins to drink. Addiction to alcohol and related chronic ailments will haunt him for the rest of his life and will ultimately cause his death, quite sudden."A green dress". 1920-1921
Soutine was the last among his comrades to move to Paris - presumably this happened in 1912-1913. With one bag of things, he showed up on the threshold of Kremen's workshop. Soutine then didn’t even know French, he even spoke Russian with great difficulty. The artist began to live and work in "Hive" - an international creative community in the Passage of Danzig. Among his new acquaintances are Marc Chagall, Constantine Brancusi, Fernand Leger, Robert Delaunay. Artists live in an atmosphere of constant creative exchange, joint work is also more profitable - you can hire a model for a model.
A particularly warm friendship is struck between Soutine and Amedeo Modigliani. The difference between them is striking: Soutine - barely making ends meet, untidy, strange, unsociable provincial. Modigliani is a dandy, elegant and charming Italian, a connoisseur of painting, declaring from the memory of Dante's sonnets. Nevertheless, they began to communicate, Modigliani became Soutine's personal guide to the Louvre. Already after the Hive, friends worked for some time in the neighborhood, Modigliani twice painted a portrait of Soutine.
Soutine’s life is in constant discussion and comprehension of art. At night, he sits in cheap, night-long Parisian cafes, drinks wine and discusses his own and other people's paintings."The big hat." 1923-1924
Blood, rotting meat and expressive abstractionism
Soutine was well acquainted with Pablo Picasso and began to work at the end of cubism, but in his work he turned out to be closer to German expressionists. The artist’s first works are naturalistic, restrained “Cezanne” still lifes in terms of color, in which the subjectivity of vision is more important than the strict laws of perspective and composition. As Soutine began to grow, the expressiveness of his writing increased: the bodies and faces of people in the artist's portraits are twisted by imbalances and convulsions, houses in landscapes seem to come off the ground, trees, buildings and paths are sucked into a whirlwind of strokes.
Soutine's painting is haunted by disturbing images. The heroes of his paintings bear the traces of confusion and imperfection. In the twenties, the artist created a series of paintings with dead animals - freshened rabbits, creepy plucked birds. The apotheosis of this line in his art was Rembrandt's reminiscences - images of refreshed bull carcasses. Soutine painted exclusively from nature - huge pieces of meat hung in his studio; they rotted, exuded a sickening smell, attracted hordes of flies. Soutine did not pay attention to all these complications and only watered the carcass of bovine blood from time to time."The carcass of a bull." 1924
Brutal and gloomy images tickled the nerves of customers, which Soutine was well aware of. Such a craving for graphic images can be explained by biographical, aesthetic, but also philosophical features. Like Baudelaire, Soutine was able to aesthetize any supposedly repulsive object. The poems of the “damned poet” sang carrion, Soutine's works emancipated the beauty of the torn bleeding meat. He fascinatedly watched the bloody boxing fights, studied the windows of the butchers, did not shy away from visits to the slaughter. Soutine also accepted the harmonious beauty of the Italian Renaissance, but considered it too balanced and boring.
Another feature of Soutine - he did not make drawings, sometimes outlined the composition with charcoal or immediately began to work with paints. He scratched bizarre patterns in his landscapes with a brush pen, just like Kokoshka shaped the paint in his expressive portraits with the help of a fingernail. “Mature” Soutine actively used powerful red color - for example, in the work “Red Gladiolus” or the famous “Red Staircase”, which was turning for his work.
Temperament, neuroticism and the intended turn to abstraction in Soutine's paintings became a source of inspiration for Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Francis Bacon. “In post-war New York, Soutine was honored as the prophet of a new expressive abstractionism. Artists and critics saw him as a soothsayer, a pioneer of a new trend in painting, the forerunner of de Kooning and Pollock. They re-read Soutine’s work, but did not distort it, but brought it closer, close-up, following their logic, Soutine’s work is abstract art in detail, and the huge canvases of abstract expressionists are close-ups, "explains Claire Bernardi, curator of the exhibition at the Orsay Museum.
The Louvre and the influence of Rembrandt
Soutine hated copying other people's work. After a brief attempt to take courses in painting, he drops an academic education and begins to study independently. Its main institute is the Louvre - it disappears in the halls of the museum, frightening local rangers with enthusiastic remarks declared aloud. In the artist's early works, the influence of compositional distortions of Cezanne and expressive landscapes of Van Gogh is evident. Soutine's favorite draftsman was Rembrandt. The artist only left France twice, both times - to see the paintings of his idol: “The Jewish Bride” in Amsterdam and “Hendrik, Entering the River” in London. Soutine studied these paintings for hours. In the early 30s, when the style of a successful artist becomes calmer and more balanced, Soutine draws his version of Hendriké, copied from the maid of his then patrons Marcelin and Madeleine Kastenov.The Red Staircase at Caen. 1923 "Still life with a slope." 1923-1924
Among the other most famous references in Soutine's works, one can mention a still life with a Chardin slope and the painting "Girls on the Seine" by Courbet"Woman entering the water." C. 1931 "Self portrait". 1920-1921
Ugliness and hostility to their own paintings
Soutine was ugly. Russian artist of the Paris School, Maria Bronislavovna Vorobyova-Stebelskaya described him as follows: "stooped, with a short neck pulled into the shoulders, with large features and a heavy jaw, like a wooden sculpture carved with an ax of a prehistoric master." Soutine had bad teeth, a look from underneath, reddened eyelids, a nervous and twitching left eye. However, Vorobyova-Stebelskaya also recalls that "most of all, he was struck by small, graceful and weak, like a child's hands." Soutine was well aware of his unattractiveness and, unlike Modigliani, portrayed himself in a self-portrait without any regret.
With outsiders, the artist often behaved harshly and rudely. Many perceived him as a nervous, closed and unfriendly person. It is known that Leopold Zborovsky - an art dealer who has done a lot for the artists of the Paris School - once decided on a very savage way to stimulate the wards. Equipping them all
necessary, Zborovsky locked the artists for a few days. If Modigliani imprisonment helped to concentrate and finish the work in a short time, then Soutine began to get upset and hurt - or he began to smash the room in a rage. Failed, according to Soutine, he mercilessly destroyed work. The dissatisfied artist tore the canvases, stamped them with his feet. To do this, he bought out many of his early works.
However, with friends and colleagues who understood the seriousness of his work, Soutine was very kind and welcoming. Even after he became a sought-after affluent artist, he often moved and was not able to create a cozy atmosphere at home. It seemed that questions of everyday life did not bother him at all. Calling in new apartments, Soutine did not change anything. The rooms quickly filled with dust, dirt and stale air.
In painting classes at the Russian Academy in Paris, Soutine was located behind the wall, hiding from all the sheet on which he painted. Painting was his only passion, the artist even said that he “married” his craft - a constant friend, affectionate and economic German Gerda Grot, appeared in his life only in 1937. Shortly before their death, they were separated - three years after the meeting, Grotto was interned by the French authorities, and in 1943 Haim Soutine died of complications of gastric ulcer.
Images: The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of the Art of the Avant-Garde