Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys
蘇丁之肖像:廚師、侍應和行李員


The Courtauld Gallery
19 October 2017 – 21 January 2018

Bellboy, c1925 © Chaïm Soutine

This major international loan exhibition of works by Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) will be the first show on the artist in the United Kingdom in 35 years. Soutine was one of the leading painters in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, part of the influential ‘School of Paris’ and seen by many as the heir to Van Gogh. The exhibition will focus on a group of remarkable modern portraits that helped establish Soutine’s name and reputation.

Soutine’s progress is the ultimate rags-to-riches story. Born in Russia (modern-day Belarus), Soutine arrived penniless in Paris in 1913 and lived in poverty in Montparnasse alongside other immigrant artists, including his closest friend Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). In the early 1920s, Soutine became fascinated by the cooks and waiting staff of French hotels and restaurants, attired in boldly coloured uniforms. Over the next decade, these humble figures sat for the artist in Paris and the south of France. This exhibition brings together 21 of the most important paintings from this series, drawn from public and private collections around the world. It will also be the first thematic exhibition anywhere on Soutine.

These portraits played a key role in establishing Soutine’s reputation and turned him from a struggling painter into a wealthy one. In 1923 the American collector Albert C. Barnes saw one of Soutine’s early paintings of a pastry cook and thought it one of the greatest modern works. He bought some fifty works on the spot and helped lift the artist out of his desperate circumstances. This endorsement brought Soutine to greater prominence, as his portraits of hotel and restaurant workers became especially prized by contemporary collectors. Today, they are considered among his greatest achievements.

The works offer powerful images of a new social class of service personnel, which went from aristocratic households of past centuries to the luxury hotels and restaurants that arose in the late 19th and early 20th century. These often-overlooked figures from France’s most fashionable places of leisure, including the famous Maxim’s restaurant in Paris, appealed to Soutine’s sense that profound emotion and humanity could be found in modest sitters. The contrast between their working uniforms and the striking individuality of their faces adds to the emotional charge of these extraordinary portraits. Soutine strived to achieve the most forceful effects of colour from the bold whites, reds and blues of their different liveries, enhanced by frontal poses and close-up views.

Soutine’s approach to depicting these modern urban workers recalls Cézanne and Van Gogh’s portraits of humble rural figures. Soutine was also deeply influenced by French Old Masters, which he studied during regular visits to the Louvre. In this way, Soutine’s portraits combine a distinctly modern expressiveness with a strong connection to the art of the past.

Soutine is truly ‘an artist’s artist’ and his legacy can be felt throughout the latter part of the 20th century. In their commitment to figuration in painting, celebrated British painters such as Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossof cite Soutine as a key influence, and he was also instrumental in the development of Abstract Expressionist art, with Willem de Kooning singling him out as his favourite artist.

Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays and entries on each work. This publication will be more than a record of the show. It will include the results of extensive new research on this series and constitute a long-term resource for anyone interested in the art of the first half of the 20th century.

倫敦考陶爾德美術館為柴姆·蘇丁舉辦專題展覽《蘇丁之肖像:廚師、侍應和行李員》。這次展覽匯集了來自世界各地公共和私人收藏的21件重要作品,是英國35年來該藝術家的首次大型作品展。身為上世紀二三十年代巴黎的著名畫家之一,蘇丁是頗具影響力的“巴黎學派”中一分子,更被許多人視為梵高的接班人。

出生於俄羅斯(今屬白俄羅斯),身無分文的蘇丁在1913年來到巴黎,在蒙帕納斯與其他移民藝術家,其中包括他最親密的朋友莫迪里阿尼,一起過著貧困的生活。二十世紀二十年代初,蘇丁對法國酒店、餐館中身穿大膽彩色制服的廚師和侍應生產生濃厚興趣,因而在接下來的十年中,這些卑微的人物成為他在巴黎和法國南部生活時畫作中的主要對象。1923年,美國收藏家艾伯特·巴恩斯驚喜地看到蘇丁描繪糕點廚師的早期作品,他當場購買了五十件作品,幫助蘇丁擺脫了經濟窘迫的境地。這些肖像畫使他成為一位名利双收的畫家,如今他們被認為是蘇丁最偉大的成就。

蘇丁對這些現代城市工作者的描繪方法回應了塞尚和梵高對卑微農村人物的畫法,同時時常在盧浮宮學習的他也深受法國古典大師作品的影響。由此,他的肖像畫中既結合了古典藝術,又透出鮮明的現代表現力。這些作品勾畫了一個新社會階層的強大形象,他們是在古老的貴族家庭、十九世紀末和二十世紀初出現的豪華酒店和餐館中工作的服務人員。這些經常被忽視的人物在他們溫和的坐姿中展現了深刻的情感和人性,其工作制服和面孔所展現的獨特個性相對比使作品中的情緒更為強烈。蘇丁還通過正面姿勢和特寫視圖,極大地增強了白、紅和藍的色彩效果。