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Chaim Soutine, “Still Life with Rayfish” (ca 1924), oil on canvas (courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Few artists have combined vigorous and expressive brushwork with the ostensibly static subject matter of the still life to quite such dazzling effect as Chaim Soutine. The Russian-French painter imbued his paintings of tabletops heaped with all manner of perishables and vessels with visceral textures that could make viewers squirm at the sight of eviscerated rabbits or uprooted onions. But his evocative renderings of animal flesh also thrum with formerly pulsing life, giving them a kind of tragic, empathic power.

Chaim Soutine, “Fish, Peppers, Onions” (ca 1919), oil on canvas (courtesy
Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

The disquieting qualities of Soutine’s still lifes are plain as day in the incredible array of more than 30 paintings on view in Chaim Soutine: Flesh at the Jewish Museum, and will be the subject of a conversation there on Thursday night between artists Angela Dufresne, Josephine Halvorson, and Judith Linhares, with Hyperallergic Weekend Editor John Yau moderating.

“Neither benign nor malevolent, the faceless forces animating every inch of his paintings are integral to a vision of reality in which destruction and renewal are different sides of the same coin,” Yau wrote of Soutine’s still life paintings in a 2006 review for the Brooklyn Rail. “We kill in order to live, and in this regard we share something with animals. However much we utilize our intellect, we are unable to completely overcome our instinctual side. While this understanding of reality isn’t exactly new, Soutine is one of the few modern artists to focus on it.”

When: Thursday, June 7, 6:30–8pm
Where: The Jewish Museum (1109 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan)

Chaim Soutine: Flesh, May 4–September 16, 2018, at the Jewish Museum (photo courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York)” width=”1080″ height=”714″ srcset=”×714.jpg 1080w,×476.jpg 720w,×238.jpg 360w, 1400w” sizes=”(max-width: 1080px) 100vw, 1080px”>

Installation view of the exhibition Chaim Soutine: Flesh, May 4–September 16, 2018, at the Jewish Museum (photo courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York)

More info at the Jewish Museum.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...