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

Maisons aux toits pointus

Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
Maisons aux toits pointus
oil on canvas
25¾ x 32 in. (65.3 x 81.3 cm.)
Painted circa 1920-1921
Jonas Netter, Paris, by circa 1925, and thence by descent to the present owner.
P. Courthion, Soutine, Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, p. 196 (illustrated fig. B, dated '1919').
M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & K. Perls, Chaïm Soutine, Catalogue raisonné, vol. I, Cologne, 1993, no. 81 (illustrated p. 197).
Paris, Galerie Schmit, Tableaux de maîtres français, 1900-1955, May - June 1973, no. 47 (illustrated p. 63).
Lugano, Museo d'arte moderna, Chaïm Soutine, March - June 1995, no. 32 (illustrated pp. 69 and 160).
Chiba, Kawamura Museum, Modigliani et son époque, Paris 1910-20, April - May 1997, no. 21 (illustrated p. 63); this exhibition later travelled to Osaka, Kintetsu Museum of Art; Yamagata, Museum of Art; Niigata, Municipal Museum of Art; Miyazaki, Prefectural Museum of Art; Kitakyushu, Municipal Museum of Art and Tokyo, Daîmaru Museum of Art.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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India Phillips
India Phillips

Lot Essay

Chaïm Soutine painted Maisons aux toits pointus around 1920-21, when he was based in Céret in the French Pyrenees, near the Spanish border. This town, which had been important to various other artists during the years before the First World War, now brought about an incredible watershed in Soutine's work. Exposed to nature and to the light of the South of France, he created vigorous landscapes that have a hallucinatory intensity. In Maisons aux toits pointus, the houses appear to tilt and lean, the jumble of a hill town being evoked through the swirling forms of these topsy-turvy buildings, their deliberately higgledy-piggledy roofs and walls giving a sense of precariousness and of pulsing life to the picture. This is accentuated by the ribbons of red, yellow and orange that make up the foliage of the foreground: these appear as streams of lava or licks of flame, an effect heightened by the incredible richness of the impasto. The paint surface itself has a visceral quality that accentuates the forms of the landscape and also adds its incredible, subjective dimension. For Soutine, this landscape has clearly been the point of departure for a picture that is filled with energy, with life and with passion. Looking at Maisons aux toits pointus, it becomes clear why Soutine's great friend Amedeo Modigliani, when drunk one day, is said to have exclaimed: 'Everything is dancing before my eyes as in a landscape by Soutine' (A. Werner, Chaïm Soutine, London, 1991, p. 38).

It was after the end of the First World War that Soutine's dealer Léopold Zborowski gave the artist the means to travel to the South of France. Until that point, Soutine had spent years in Paris, seldom seeing even its outskirts, often living from hand to mouth. Maisons aux toits pointus is filled with the vertiginous and ecstatic release that came with Soutine's sudden immersion in the green landscape, and with having money in his pocket. The dark paintings based on the pictures in the Louvre and on the meagre meals that he was sometimes able to eat gave way to glistening, breathing landscapes filled with matter, with paint that often has an almost pulpy tactility and appears to shift on the canvas.

This change in the character of Soutine's work would soon bring about a change in his fortunes: it was in 1923 that his work came to the attention of the legendary American collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes, who soon purchased a large number of paintings. This would mark the beginning of Soutine's wider recognition as an artist. By 1925, Maisons aux toits pointus was in the formidable collection of Jonas Netter, a merchant who from 1915 onwards would acquire many pictures by him alongside those of Modigliani and Maurice Utrillo and whose tastes and loans would have an impact on the reputation of each of these artists. Many of Netter's pictures are now in museum collections throughout the world, while Maisons aux toits pointus has remained in the hands of his descendents until this day.

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