press release

9 February – 14 July 2024

CHAÏM SOUTINE – AGAINST THE CURRENT

In the spring of 2024, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presents a major exhibition by the painter Chaïm Soutine (1893–1943), who so masterfully captured the time around and between the two world wars. Soutine is considered one of the leading expressionists of the Paris School, and it seems clear that the exhibition in Humlebæk – the first of its kind in Northern Europe – will bring him to a newer, broader public.

The coming presentation of Chaïm Soutine’s work at Louisiana has an aura of discovery about it. In spite of figuring as a key artist of classical modernism, Soutine has not previously been the object of wide-ranging attention on our shores.

As a painter, Soutine followed his own path. While many of his contemporaries were preoccupied with avant-garde Cubism, Dadaism and Fauvism, Soutine remained relatively unimpressed by these offshoots of Modernism. Instead, he cultivated the characteristic, highly intense style and expressive idiom that make his paintings so distinctive. Soutine painted figures, still lifes and landscapes and is known for his distorted subject matter, blazing colours and restive, forceful line. His paintings explode with colour, at once fierce and beautiful, with intensely tremorous, unsettling and ragged imagery.

The artistically innovative potency of Soutine’s work had an influence deep into the twentieth century and was a major source of inspiration for artists such as Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning and Georg Baselitz, all of whom are represented in Louisiana’s collection. Soutine’s name often comes up when contemporary artists are asked to point out their artistic exemplars.

The exhibition encompasses no fewer than 64 paintings from across the artist’s career and presents a differentiated overview of all facets of his painterly production: sensitive portraits of humble folk; wondrous, wavering landscapes beaming with colour; and enigmatic still lifes of slaughtered beasts. The generous loans for the exhibition come from Musée de l’Orangerie (Paris), Centre Pompidou (Paris), Kunstmuseum Basel, The Israel Museum (Jerusalem), MoMA (New York), Tate (London) and National Gallery of Art (Washington), among others.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Düsseldorf, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and Kunstmuseum Bern.

The exhibition is supported by the Aage & Johanne Louis-Hansen Foundation

Fritz Hansen is Louisiana’s Main Corporate Partner


Catalogue: The exhibition will be accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue in German and English published by the renowned Hatje Cantz publishing house in Germany. In Danish, Louisiana Revy will be published.

*

About Chaïm Soutine
Chaïm Soutine grew up in extreme poverty in a Jewish Orthodox family in what is now Belarus. He knew at an early age that he wanted to be an artist and, despite his parents’ misgivings, was allowed to take drawing classes in Minsk.

It was here as a youth that he painted a portrait of a man which ran contrary to the orthodox canon, with the result that Soutine was attacked and beaten by the man’s sons. His parents managed to claim compensation for the assault, and with this money Soutine was able to travel to Vilnius and enrol in the city’s art school.

In 1913, he travelled to Paris, then the epicentre of the European avant-garde and a meeting point for many voluntarily and involuntarily exiled artists – especially those from Eastern Europe. Although the metropolis was his second home, he remained an outsider throughout his life.

Many of his early years in Paris were marked by hunger and deprivation. It was not until 1922–1923, when the American collector Albert C. Barnes acquired no less than 52 of his works, that Soutine achieved a sudden and unexpected form of recognition. This brought about an improvement in Soutine’s financial standing but did little to change his restless and reserved nature – he moved between lodgings constantly, formed few close relationships, spoke poor French, and was described as eccentric.

In general we know very little about him as a person. He left behind only a few drawings and sketches and no notes; he did not keep a diary, and wrote only a handful of cards and letters. Being both stateless and Jewish, when the Germans invaded and occupied Paris in 1940 his life became precarious in the extreme. In his final years Soutine lived more or less in hiding or on the run. When he finally ventured back to Paris in 1943 to undergo surgery for a bleeding ulcer, it was too late.