CHAÏM SOUTINE (1893-1943)
CHAÏM SOUTINE (1893-1943)
CHAÏM SOUTINE (1893-1943)
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CHAÏM SOUTINE (1893-1943)
4 More
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, NEW JERSEY
CHAÏM SOUTINE (1893-1943)

Femme assise dans un fauteuil

Details
CHAÏM SOUTINE (1893-1943)
Femme assise dans un fauteuil
signed 'Soutine' (upper right)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 19 5/8 in. (65 x 50 cm.)
Painted circa 1919
Provenance
Salle Aeolian, Brussels.
Charles Drost, Brussels, by whom acquired from the above on 29 October 1920.
Anonymous sale, Sotheby & Co., London, 15 April 1970, lot 53.
Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Cosmondia S.A., Geneva, by whom acquired from the above in November 1972.
Galerie Yoshii, Tokyo, by December 1972.
Private collection, Japan.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 19 November 1986, lot 33.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
P. Courthion, Soutine, Peintre du déchirant, Paris, 1972, no. E, pp. 28 & 183 (illustrated p. 29; illustrated again p. 183; dated '1914' & '1917-1918').
T. Satomi, Sansai, February 1973 (illustrated).
M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & K. Perls, Chaim Soutine: Catalogue Raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1993, no. 28, p. 558 (illustrated p. 561).
Exhibited
Tokyo, Gallery Yoshii, Soutine: l'exposition du peintre de la fatalité, fureur passionnée, January 1973, no. 4 (illustrated pl. 4).
Takasaki, Museum of Modern Art of Gunma, L'École de Paris, October - November 1984, no. 47.
Céret, Musée d'Art Moderne de Céret, Soutine: Céret 1912-1922, June - October 2000, p. 376 (illustrated p. 377).
Cologne, Galerie Gmurzynska, The impact of Chaim Soutine de Kooning, Pollock, Dubuffet, Bacon, November - December 2001, p. 154 (illustrated).
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted at the outset of Chaïm Soutine’s formative years in Céret, France, Femme assise dans un fauteuil represents an inflection point of the artist’s oeuvre. These Céret works, particularly his portraits and landscapes, were crucial in establishing Soutine’s distinctive style and his career writ large. Often cited as a through line connecting French masters like Jean Siméon Chardin and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot to Post-war titans Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Soutine is recognized as a key figure in the development of Expressionism in no small part due to his works produced from 1919-1922. Femme assise is a tour de force of vibrant hues and rich brushwork. Soutine’s characteristic gestural intensity and undulating forms come together in this expressive portrait to yield a striking and psychically-rich depiction of his sitter, a woman from Céret.
Born in present-day Belarus in 1893, one of eleven children of a tailor, Soutine’s childhood interest in painting was hardly encouraged by his family. Soutine ultimately left his home for the Vilnius Academy of Fine Art in 1910. Three years later, excelling in his studies but struggling financially, he made his way to Paris to continue at the École des Beaux-Arts. He frequented the Louvre, drawing ample inspiration from the Old Masters, and fell in with with the artistic diaspora of Montparnasse, a group which included Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani, and Henri Laurens; it was Modigliani's dealer, Léopold Zborowski, who would take a keen interest in the émigré’s lush, idiosyncratic canvases and he financed Soutine’s residence (or rather, subsistence) in Céret from 1919 to 1922. There, Soutine was taken not only with the hills of the French countryside, but also the people he encountered – they inspired some of the finest and most daring works of the artist’s career.
Around 1919, at the start of this time in Céret, Soutine painted a pair of complementary three-quarter length portraits featuring the same distinctive patterned wallpaper and black armchair: Le Pâtissier (Barnes Collection, Philadelphia) and Femme assise dans un fauteuil, the present work. While the latter was quickly acquired by a small Belgian gallery, the former was purchased by dealer Paul Guillaume and in 1922 caught the eye of the esteemed American collector Albert Barnes. Guillaume recounts, ‘Dr Barnes saw [Le Pâtissier] 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’ (P. Guillaume quoted in Great French Paintings from the Barnes Foundation, New York, 1993, p. 216). Barnes immediately purchased in excess of fifty additional works by Soutine from Zborowski, twenty of which hang in the Barnes Foundation alongside Le Pâtissier.
While the identity of the sitter in the present work remains a mystery, there is a highly distinctive, individual character to Soutine’s representation of her. She faces the viewer squarely, posed almost classically amidst the frenetic brushwork and vibrant hues. Complementary patches of reds and greens construct her face, while a dab of navy at her left eye suggests a pensive, even forlorn demeaner – it’s as if this sitter broke sceptical eye contact with Soutine for a brief moment of personal reflection. Much attention, too, is given to the construction of her hands which contrast with the dark, cool hues of her dress. Subtle strokes of maroon give them a sense of weight. But even as Soutine’s hand is clearly felt, he does not overwhelm his sitter. As Esti Dunow suggests, ‘While Soutine may project his inner turbulence and most personal feelings onto his subjects, the viewer never loses sight of a particular physical entity being carefully observed and experienced.’ Indeed, it is his ‘insistence on the physical particularity of his subject, together with this move towards more anonymous sitters, [that] demonstrates his resistance to completely losing himself in the subjective aspect of the portrait experience’ (E. Dunow, ‘Chaim Soutine: Evolution in Form and Expression’, in Soutine (1893-1943), exh. cat., Gallery Bellman, New York, 1983 p. 11).
Examining Femme assise dans un fauteuil alongside Le Pâtissier underscores the deft formal strategies Soutine employed in his early portraits. Here, the sitters have undeniably distinct personalities – the boy, unsure and naive, almost shifting in his seat, the woman seemingly sceptical and resolute. The repeated elements in both yield to the uniqueness of each sitter. The wallpaper’s circular forms appear to emanate from the young chef, making him less material. When framing the woman, these forms instead centre her figure and transfix the viewer. While the same chair has been included in both images, in Femme assise it is a more regal and stronger presence. Indeed, even as he distorts their environs, Soutine paints likenesses, imbuing his sitters with a profound sense of physicality. Femme assise dans un fauteuil captures the expressive potency that defined the artist’s Céret works.

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