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 1918, Nature morte aux deux perdrix rouges is a rich and evocative rendering of a motif that pre-occupied Soutine throughout his career and allowed him to fully control his composition and to give free rein to his artistic expression.
Images of food are central to Soutine's art, not just in the chefs, bakers and waiters that populate his body of portraits, but also in the beef carcasses, pheasants, chickens, ducks, turkeys, skate, rabbits and fish that appear with great regularity throughout his oeuvre. Probably at least partially influenced by sixteenth and seventeenth century Dutch still-life artists whom he had seen on his frequent museum visits, Soutine's early still lifes are usually formal arrangements of mealtime tables. The present work, however, dispenses with such extraneous detail in favor of greater emphasis on the subject and Soutine's vibrant experiments in form, brushstroke and palette.
The obvious link between Soutine's still lifes and imagery of death is inextricably linked to the attitudes towards food in the shtetl, where slaughter played an important role in both secular and religious rituals. Furthermore, food was itself part of Soutine's sense of identity, because of his former poverty and because he had so often starved, not only as a struggling young artist in Paris but also during his childhood in Smilovitchi. Indeed, due to the painful stomach ulcers he had developed as a result of his poverty, the very subjects he chose to paint were the foods that were denied to him by his condition. His lush, glistening portrayals of foodstuffs become, in this light, the exorcisms of his hunger and desire.