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

Gourdon sur Vence

Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
Gourdon sur Vence
signed 'Soutine' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 ¾ x 18 in. (65.3 x 45.8 cm.)
Painted circa 1922
The Barnes Foundation, Merion Station, Pennsylvania (acquired from the artist, 1923).
Georges Keller, New York (acquired from the above).
Carroll Carstairs Gallery, New York.
Cecil "Titi" Blaffer von Fürstenberg, Houston (acquired from the above, 1946).
By descent from the above to the present owners.
P. Courthion, Soutine: Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, p. 224, no. J (illustrated, p. 225; dated 1923).
M. Tuchman, E. Dunow and K. Perls, Chaïm Soutine: Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne, 1993, vol. I, p. 218, no. 98 (illustrated in color, p. 220).
(possibly) Paris, Paul Guillaume, 1923.
(possibly) Philadelphia, The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Exhibition of Contemporary European Paintings and Sculpture, April-May 1923.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Chaïm Soutine, February-April 1968, p. 52, no. 22 (illustrated, p. 76; titled Landscape; with incorrect dimensions).

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Sarah El-Tamer
Sarah El-Tamer

Lot Essay

“Everything is dancing before my eyes as in a landscape by Soutine.” – Amedeo Modigliani

Painted circa 1922, Soutine’s Gourdon sur Vence shows the massed and tangled trees within the landscape. Capturing the vibrant, sun-drenched vitality of the Mediterranean in a whirl of vivid color, Gourdon sur Vence belongs to a series of dynamic landscapes which Soutine executed in Southern France in the early 1920s. With dense and vigorous brushstrokes, in Gourdon sur Vence, Soutine has transformed a hill and its trees into a copious mass of ebullient paint. His brushstrokes cross the surface like flowing rivers of pure color, while the greens rage above: curled and dense, they carry in their twirl everything else. The few visible houses on the hill are swept by this tide, barely poking through the immense verdant wave of trees that has invaded the picture. Here, the artist manages to translate the anxieties that fueled his greatest paintings into a landscape format that echoes the work of Vincent Van Gogh, one of his noted heroes. This view is pulsing and angry—its swirling trees appear to reflect the darkness of Soutine’s character with all of its unease of persecution and poverty.
Soutine had moved to Paris years earlier, but his intense suffering, combined with the First World War raging through France, had meant that he had been essentially unable to leave the French capital. At the end of the War, his dealer, Léopold Zborowski encouraged him to head to the countryside, which he did in the company of his great friend Modigliani. For Soutine, after the years of urban squalor, this was an epiphany. The colors and sheer life force of the countryside and of nature, as well as the sense of scale, appear to have opened up new vistas, new possibilities in the painter's mind. Where his Paris paintings had often taken still life themes or been portraits and copies from Old Masters, now he was able to work from the vastness of the world around him.
The sense of vortex-like movement and palpable life which Soutine employs in this landscape prefigures his developments of the following few years, when he settled in Céret and later return to Cagnes in the mid-1920s. In Vence, the landscape already is imbued with the snaking paths of those later pictures. In this way, Gourdon sur Vence provides an intriguing prefiguration of the unique landscape vocabulary that Soutine would later develop.
In addition to marking a key stage in his artistic evolution, the years that Soutine spent in the Midi also correspond to a dramatic improvement in his professional fortunes. In December 1922, the wealthy American industrialist Albert Barnes, the first owner of this work, who had already amassed an important collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, saw a portrait by Soutine hanging in the Paris gallery of Paul Guillaume. He was immediately struck by the image of a young pastry chef; as Guillaume later recalled, "Dr. Barnes saw [the painting] at my place. 'It's a peach!' he cried. The spontaneous pleasure he derived from this canvas changed Soutine's fortune all at once, transforming him overnight into a recognized painter, sought after by patrons, no longer the object of condescension--a hero in Montparnasse" (quoted in Great French Paintings from the Barnes Foundation, New York, 1995, p. 216). Guillaume took Barnes to visit Zborowski, who sold him all the paintings by Soutine that he had on hand–a total of fifty-two canvases. Paulette Jourdain, who worked for Zborowski at the time, remembered joking, "Leave us at least one Soutine," to which Barnes replied that he would invite her to his house in Philadelphia to see them (quoted in An Expressionist in Paris: The Paintings of Chaïm Soutine, exh. cat., The Jewish Museum, New York, 1998, p. 103).

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