Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943) was one of the leading painters in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, seen by many as the heir to Vincent van Gogh. During the early 1920s, Soutine became fascinated by the cooks and waiting staff of French hotels and restaurants, dressed in boldly coloured uniforms. Over the next decade, these humble models sat for him in Paris and the south of France.
Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys is the first exhibition in the UK on Soutine in over 35 years and the very first to explore this remarkable group of portraits. This series of works offers powerful images of a new social class of service personnel, who moved from aristocratic households of past centuries to the luxury hotels and restaurants that arose in the late 19th and early 20th century. These overlooked figures from France’s most fashionable places of leisure, including the famous Maxim’s restaurant in Paris, appealed to Soutine’s idea that profound emotion and a deep sense of humanity could be found in such modest sitters.
These works played a key role in establishing Soutine’s reputation and turned him from a struggling painter into a wealthy one. When he started the series, Soutine, an immigrant from Russia, was living in near-poverty alongside other artists, including his close friend Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). But the portraits of hotel and restaurant workers soon caught the eye of major collectors, such as the American Albert Barnes. They are today considered amongst Soutine’s greatest achievements.
This exhibition has been sponsored by:
The Friends of The Courtauld
The Garcia Family Foundation