Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)

Bouquet de fleurs

Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
Bouquet de fleurs
signed 'Soutine' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 1/8 x 15 in. (58.7 x 38.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1919
Anonymous sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 19 February 1932, lot 75 (illustrated).
Clausen, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Mr & Mrs Oscar Miestchaninoff, Paris & New York.
Pierre Wertheimer, Lausanne, until circa 1963.
Daniel Varenne, Paris & Geneva, by circa 1963.
Galerie Yoshii, Tokyo.
Paul Pétridès, Paris.
Perls Gallery, New York (no. 11468).
Anonymous sale, Christie's, Tel Aviv, 30 September 1996, lot 18.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
P. Courthion, Soutine, Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, p. 189 (illustrated pl. B).
M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & K. Perls, Chaïm Soutine, Catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Cologne, 1993, no. 30 (illustrated p. 384).
New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Selections from the European Collection, circa 1970, no. 54 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Yoshii, 1973, no. 9 (illustrated).

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Cornelia Svedman
Cornelia Svedman

Lot Essay

Bouquet de fleurs is one of only 22 recorded flower still lifes by Chaïm Soutine, all of which were executed between circa 1917 and 1919 (Tuchman nos. 21-42). Painted circa 1919, the year in which Soutine left Paris for the first time since he had arrived there six years earlier to settle in Céret, a small hill town in the French Pyrenees, where he would live until 1922, its vibrant colourism reflects the change in the artist's work marked by this move. After a lifetime of poverty and deprivation, first in his childhood shtetl in Lithuania, and then in his squalid Paris studios, he now found some financial freedom through the support of his dealer, Zborowski, who funded his journey and stay in Céret. Travelling towards the Pyrenees through the wide open French countryside also allowed the artist the freedom to revel in nature, colour and space.

The move from Paris had an immediate effect on the subjects, palette and compositions with which Soutine would now experiment, evident in the present work. Set in an impossibly small vase, a riotous mass of twisted and knotted foliage and bright red flowers explodes off the canvas, extending both beyond its edges and above it through the violent application of thick impasto. The traditional, academic subject matter of a still life depicting a bouquet of flowers in a vase serves to heighten the dramatic effect of this distorted scale, feverish palette and painterly technique. With Soutine's paramount concern of emotional expression, every brush stroke and flick of the artist's hand is visible, his identity and presence more obvious than the actual type of flower, which remains unidentified.

In the unashamedly painterly quality of the thickly applied impasto and the distortion of classical subject matter and composition, the painting is typical of the seminal landscapes and still lifes of this period, which are markedly 'violent and convulsive. The painter's vantage point moves closer to the forms', and as in the diagonal lines of the table in Bouquet de fleurs, 'the one aspect of "high" Céret style emerges, the impulsive unobstructed surge of long diagonals to a point of convergence at the upper right. Thus the sense of being close-up is taken a step further, and approaches a sensation of being inside; that is, completely immersed in a world of violent sensation. The pictures become airless, the space flat and dense, the textures liquid and thick, the shapes less easily legible and often ecstatic' (M. Tuchman, exh. cat., Chaim Soutine, 1893-1943, Los Angeles, 1968, p. 25).

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