Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow will include this painting in their forthcoming supplement to the Soutine catalogue raisonné.
The present work was painted in the final years of Soutine's life, when he returned to landscape painting after a gap of fourteen years in which he focused almost exclusively on still-life and portraiture. Whereas his early landscapes from Céret display a swirling, claustrophobic composition in which the chaos of the land rises and falls in tempestuous undulations, those from Cagnes-sur-Mer, which he visited at the behest of his dealer Léopold Zborowski, display an altogether more structured and solid composition. The landscapes that he returned to in this final phase of his career continue this trend to become an even more ordered and lucid articulation of his vision, where movement is tempered by stability.
This stability in Soutine's art may well be a reflection of his changed circumstances. His earlier landscapes were executed while the artist was living in poverty and isolation, whereas patronage by the wealthy Pennsylvanian pharmaceutical manufacturer Dr Albert Barnes from 1923 onwards and also by Madeleine Castaing, a wealthy French interior designer who lived near Chartres and to whom the present work once belonged, subsequently provided him with a plentiful income and general acceptance among the upper classes.
In Les grands prés à Chartres (au viaduc) the vertical lines of the tree trunks and horizontal lines of the ground and of the viaduct dominate the painting, while subtler diagonal lines in the branches of the trees lend a sense of gentle wind-swept movement. The painting is further animated by the energy of Soutine's brushwork, consistent with his tenet that 'l'expression est dans la touche du pinceau' (Soutine, quoted in N. Kleeblatt & K. Silver, An Expressionist in Paris: The Paintings of Chaïm Soutine, New York, 1998, p. 139). The height and the strength of the trees emphasizes the small scale of man and his achievements in relation to nature; the pedestrians in the foreground are dwarfed by the soaring trees and even the viaduct appears small in comparison, relegated as it is to the background of the composition.