Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
Property from the Collection of Jacques Boussard
Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)

L'arbre de Vence

Details
Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
L'arbre de Vence
signed 'Soutine' (lower left)
oil on canvas
29 ½ x 26 ¼ in. (75 x 66.2 cm.)
Painted circa 1929
Provenance
Collection M. R. B., Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 3 June 1937, lot 22.
Galerie Max Kaganovitch, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, by 1951.
Literature
P. Courthion, Soutine, Peintre du déchirant, Lausanne, 1972, p. 274 (illustrated, fig. E).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Max Kaganovitch, Oeuvres choisies du XXe sie'cle, May-June 1951, no. 44 (titled L'Arbre).
Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, Cinquante ans de peinture francaise dans les collections particulières, de Cézanne à Matisse, March-April 1952, no. 166 (with incorrect dimensions).
Paris, Maison de la Pensée Francaise, Soutine, March-April 1956, no. 94.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Cent tableaux de Soutine, 1959, no. 94.
Paris, Galerie Max Kaganovitch, Oeuvres choisies du XXe sie'cle, May-June 1962, no. 58 (illustrated; titled L'Arbre).
Milan, Galleria del Levante, Il contributo russo alle avanguardie plastiche, 1964, p. 59, no. 3 (illustrated, p. 58).
Sale room notice
Please note the additional provenance for the present lot:
Collection de M. R. B., Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 3 June 1937, lot 22.

Please note the additional exhibition history for the present lot:
Paris, Maison de la Pensée Francaise, Soutine, March-April 1956, no. 94.
Milan, Galleria del Levante, Il contributo russo alle avanguardie plastiche, 1964, p. 59, no. 3 (illustrated p. 58).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming third volume of the Chaïm Soutine catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow.

Painted circa 1929, L'arbre de Vence is from a small series of landscapes that Soutine painted in Vence that year, featuring the same tree again and again. Soutine's friend and dealer, Leopold Zborowski, put his own chauffeur, André Daneyrolles, at the artist's disposal during this period, and the driver's recollections are central to an understanding of the artist and these works. Daneyrolles recalled that the tree was painted from the same vantage point partly because Soutine did not like to be seen while painting. Instead, he would sit in a discreet spot where he was all but invisible. When this spot was once invaded by a passer-by, Soutine destroyed the canvas he was painting, and from then on had Daneyrolles guard the spot and even block access with the car.
With its vivacious swirls of paint, this work is a tribute to the energy and passion of the painter. The various pictures in this small series are all different from one other, usually focusing on one explicit characteristic of the scene. Here, the tree is a large and looming presence, forming a dark canopy at the top of the work. This fits well with Daneyrolles' recollection of the artist once saying, “This tree, it is like a cathedral” (quoted in Soutine, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chartres, 1989, p. 250). The nearby buildings take on a fluctuating degree of importance in the various paintings, and here we find Soutine has deliberately blurred all aspects of the scene with the exception of the tree, such that the buildings, figure, and street all seem to swirl into a vortex. The street which extends to the left of the painting, and seemingly beyond the canvas, adds a sense of depth and drama to L'arbre de Vence, evoking a sense of movement and perspective.
It was this distinct sense of perspective and distortion in Soutine’s paintings that prompted his great friend and fellow artist, Amedeo Modigliani, to exclaim when drunk that, “Everything is dancing before my eyes as in a landscape by Soutine” (quoted in A. Werner, Chaïm Soutine, London, 1991, p. 38). Soutine's vision of the street is intoxicating—it dances with life and character, and fills the viewer with frantic emotion.

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