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Lecture Reveals Life and Art of “Cursed” Painter Chaim Soutine


woman in red

By Béa Aaronson

After a brief introduction to 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, Chaim Soutine was the tenth of eleven children. His father was not even a tailor, but a clothes mender.

Beaten by his brothers, hiding to avoid arrest by the Gestapo, suffering from a chronic ulcer which eventually burst and caused his death, Soutine emigrated to Paris in 1912. Here he befriended Chagall, Zadkine, and the other peintre maudit (“outlaw artist”) and became a drinking buddy to Modigliani.  He 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, he 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 not only for Jewish suffering, but for all human suffering. His flayed rabbits, plucked birds, dead fowls, dead herrings, and slabs and carcasses of beef are icons of inner torment, exposing his inner wounds. Even his portraits, still-lifes of flowers, and his landscapes bespeak of suffering, oozing wormlike brush strokes of wounded flesh and decomposing earth. They destabilize, they hurt, and they have no structure on which you can rest your gaze. When one looks at them, one can hear Modigliani describing his own drunkenness: “Everything dances around me as in a painting by Soutine.”

With his visionary creative powers, this extraordinary artist exorcised his own pain and tapped into a future 20th century eroded by violence, war, and greed.



“Chaim Soutine: Le Peintre Maudit

Expressionism and the Fever of Distortion

By Béa Aaronson

Tue, Mar 6, 3:30pm

The Jewish Cultural Center of San Miguel

Calle de Las Moras 47 (Corner Cinco de Mayo)

150 pesos per person/130 Pesos members

Reservations: 152 02 36

Please arrive at least 15 minutes before



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