Second Soutine portrait enters British collections
- Ben Uri: Art. Identity. Migration
- 4 September 2012
A striking portrait by Lithuanian Jewish painter Chaim Soutine has been bought by the Ben Uri Gallery with help from the Art Fund.
Chaim Soutine spent his adult life in France, producing vividly coloured works with violently distorted forms, drawing upon Fauvism and Cubism. The Ben Uri Gallery is delighted to have added this major work to its collection, particularly as it is only the second Soutine portrait to enter a British public collection.
La Soubrette (The Waiting Maid) is a compelling example of Soutine's figurative work in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Focusing on a single subject against an unadorned background, it depicts an anonymous domestic maid in her uniform, her pinched face and downcast eyes expressing weariness and a certain submission.
The portrait belongs to a period in the early 1930s when Soutine turned away from the hotel staff and cooks of his earlier portraits and towards the domestic staff of bourgeois country estates. Although less contorted and less confrontational in character, it shares a number of stylistic, thematic and compositional devices with his earlier celebrated Pastry Cooks series, particularly the focus on a working-class figure in a service profession, and the contrast of the ruddy face with the white of the uniform.
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