Soutine, soutine, soutine, soutine (to the tune of Jolene). Was showing last year at the Courtauld but due to absence mindedness I am only posting this now. The Courtauld is by the way closing next year for a two year refurbishment. It is an excellent collection so you should go and see it before it shuts. If you live outside London then you may be in for a treat as the collection is going on tour. If it turns up anywhere near you go and have a look.
As part of its swan song there is an excellent exhibition, of Soutine. Incidentally cost of entry to the collection includes entry into the exhibition. The exhibition is only two rooms, but they are big rooms and they pack allot in.
Soutine is weird. Good weird (see above). I very much like the idea of portraits, often grand looking portraits of cooks, bellboys and waiters. The paint is thick and looks quickly applied. In one picture of a page boy thick paint with a sheen to it works well as a his hair. There is allot of vigour and energy in the pieces. The people themselves often appear overwhelmed by drudgery or beaten down by life, except some of the waiters who exude that special time of French waiter arrogance (they were all done in Paris).
The general approach is the same. There is a block of colour as the background (my favourite of which were those with a sort of deep Prussian blue). Then sitting in front is the figure. With many such as an early little chef (no not the restaurant) and two of kitchen maids the framing is an important feature of the piece. The frames are long narrow and tight on these three and are used to constrain the subject, to make them look trapped and ill at ease.
Exaggerated features such as long necks, big ears or off set eyes as well as the use of stance. With then one of my favourites the little pastry chef he has his hands and legs tight to his body and his hands clasped nervously (above left). Contrast this with the pastry chef next to that , who exudes confidence, legs open, arms out, and the whole of his hat in the picture like a crown. I particularly like the way Soutine does the chefs coats. They are not just white, they are done with stripes and dabs of pastel colours. One of the best of these is the little pastry chef on the far end of one room (above right), where there are streaks and cuts of colour which work very well.
The most interesting portraits are a series of four of the same man, in a waiter’s uniform. He has different postures, three of which, with the blue background I like, displaying varying degrees of arrogance. The last one is different, it is a softer friendlier portrait with a sort of a tan orangey background which gives a much more sympathetic approachable figure.
I liked this show very much, you should go but this article comes too late, so you can't.
William John Mackenzie
I am an artist with a specialism in landscapes and still life. My contact details are here.