“Let slide the weary art-historical narratives that lock Soutine into categories of style and sequences of influence. Only look.” —Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for “The New Yorker”
“I adore this painting. Full of beautiful contradictions, it seems to stand outside of time while it remains so specific. Chaïm Soutine painted from life, inviting models to his Parisian studio. In the 1920s, he created several portraits of waiters, bellboys, and chefs from Paris’s luxury hotels. This working class cohort was an increasingly visible presence in the booming establishments frequented by fashionable bourgeoisie, and Soutine’s portraits bear witness to the formation of the hospitality service industry as we know it today.
If we go deeper, we see the artist’s virtuosic balancing act. Up close the controlled chaos of his brushstrokes shatters form into colorful abstraction. The pressed white chef’s jacket is a wrinkled riot of primary colors; the man’s hands a fleshy dough ball of red, yellow, grey. Set off from the dominating presence of the red curtain backdrop, the face belies a unique expression, maybe a smirk or a smile captured on this break from the hard work of the kitchen. Art historians consider Soutine a bridging figure from Post-Impressionism to Abstract Expressionism, and he doesn’t quite fit into the standard trajectory of Western modernism. I agree with Schjeldahl: Does that matter, really? Soutine knew the transformative powers of paint.”
—Sara Krajewski, The Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Chaïm Soutine (Russian, 1893–1943). Le Petit Pâtissier (The Little Pastry Cook), ca. 1921. Oil on canvas. Museum Purchase: Ella M. Hirsch Fund, 40.30 © artist or other rights holder