Soutine Exhibition: The Jewish Museum
In the spring of 1998 the Jewish Museum mounted the first major New York retrospective of Chaim Soutine’s paintings in 50 years. As described in the museum’s press release:
The exhibition examined Soutine’s initial reception in Paris as a Jew and an immigrant Frenchman, a time during which his dealers and critics positioned his work as “primitive” and its creator as an untutored, foreign-born, divinely inspired genius within the context of painters such as Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Rousseau. The view of Soutine’s work changed radically during the 1930′s, when he was seen as a “master” the last great hope for traditional painting in France, sometimes pitting him against the anti-painterly avant-garde movements of Dada and Surrealism. Finally, the exhibition explored Soutine’s reputation in America from the late 1930′s to this death in 1943 and during the emergence of American Abstract Expressionism and concurrent trends of the 1940s and 1950s.
Reflecting these different perceptions of the artists, the exhibition was organized in three sections. In terms of the works chosen and the design of the space, each gallery was designed to the different periods of Soutine’s critical reception the modernist salon space of the early 1920s, when Dr. Albert Barnes, the eccentric Philadelphia collector, became Soutine’s first major patron; the revived classic interiors of his more conservative French patrons Paul Guillaume and Madeleine Castaing in the late 1920s and 1930s; and finally the International Style exhibition spaces of the post-war art museum as exemplified by the Museum of Modern Art in Soutine’s first major retrospective in 1950. Through these three distinct environments, the changing interpretations of the artist’s work over time from “primitive” genius to “master” painter to “prophet”, was explored.
The Jewish Museum