Bea Aaronson's Lectures.


Thursday August 20 at 3:00 central time

Chaim Soutine: Le Peintre Maudit Expressionism and the Fever of Distortion


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by Béa Aaronson PhD


After a brief introduction on the existential dimension of Expressionism, I shall unravel for you the heart wrenching story of Chaim Soutine, The Cursed Painter of 20th century Art History. 


Born in 1893, into an utterly poor Jewish family in Smilovitchi near Minsk -modern day Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire- Chaim Soutine was the tenth of eleven children. His father was not even a tailor, but a clothes mender. 


Beaten to a pulp by his own brothers, suffering from an ulcer which will burst and cause his death in 1943, having to hide in order to avoid arrest by the Gestapo, Soutine emigrated to Paris in 1912, befriended Chagall, Zadkine, and the other peintre maudit and drinking buddy Modigliani, and also met Henry Miller whose Tropic of Cancer owes a lot to the Jewish painter’s vision.


The tormented Soutine looked uncouth and tattered most of his life. Before Dr Barnes bought all of his work and made him a prosperous artist, Soutine lived in total squalor, eating sardines and keeping paraffin oil burning all around his bed to ward off bed bugs and cockroaches.


His images are metaphors for Jewish and all human suffering. His flayed rabbits, plucked birds, dead fowls, dead herrings, slabs and carcasses of beef, are icons of inner torment, baring the inner wound for all to see. Even his portraits, flowers and landscapes bespeak of suffering, oozing wormlike brush strokes of wounded flesh and decomposing earth. They destabilize, they hurt, they have no structure on which you can rest your gaze. When one looks at them, on a more joyful note, one can understand the old joke of Modigliani describing his own drunkenness: "Everything dances around me as in a painting by Soutine."


Come and meet this extraordinary artist, whose visionary creative power not only exorcized his own pain, but also unleashed the tragedies of a sick, distorted 20th century, eroded by violence, war and greed.