Artists never work alone: on them lies the burden of all the artists that came before and discovered new techniques and peculiar styles, influencing many other minds. It is not always simple to see the connections in the great tree of creation, where the branches divide and interweave to produce new leaves, but sometime the influences are so evident that it is possible to place a painting next to another and discover a common idea or atmosphere, letting us see art as a whole and not as a series of drops on a canvas.
If the Galleria Borghese in Rome in 2009, in its most controversial exhibition of its recent production, Francis Bacon was placed near Caravaggio, maybe the most loved Italian painter, the Helly Nahmad Gallery of New York choose a less daring matching with an exhibition that want to tell a precise story. Francis Bacon (Dublin, 1909-Madrid, 1992) here is seen as an admirer of Chaim Soutine (Smilavichy, 1893-Paris, 1943), the artist that came from today's Belarus to shock the whole of Europe with his provocative paintings.
The exhibition, curated by Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, co-authors of the 'Chaim Soutine Catalogue Raisonné’, is the very first to explicitly pair, compare, and historically position the two painters. Until June 18 it will be possible to see a selection of works by both artists with loans from prestigious private collections as well as major museums. The Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern and Bacon Foundation in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Albertina in Vienna, the Beleyer Foundation in Basel, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, the Kunsthaus Zurich, and the Pearlman Foundation with the Art Museum of Princeton University have agreed to lend some works.
The Jewish painter Chaim Soutine was born on January 13, 1893 in Smilavichy, in the Russian Empire, but he moved in Paris in 1913. Here, inspired by classic painting from the European tradition, like the works by Rembrandt, Chardin and Courbet, he developed an unique style where shapes, colors, and textures were more important than the representation of reality, which was the base for the development of Abstract Expressionism. His most famous series of works is the one about carcasses of beef that shocked the public even before it was painted: Soutine once horrified his neighbours by keeping animal carcasses in his studio so that he could paint them. These works drew the attention over him and they remained his most notable paintings: in February 2006 one of them was sold for a record of 7.8 million ($13.8 million) to an anonymous buyer at a Christie’s auction held in London, after it was estimated to fetch $4.8 million. The life of Soutine ended badly: when France was invaded by German troops, he, a Jew, had to escape and hide in order to avoid arrest and he was sometimes forced to seek shelter in forests. Suffering from a stomach ulcer and bleeding heavily, he went back to Paris in order to undergo emergency surgery, which failed to save his life. He died on August 9, 1943.
Born in Ireland from English parents on October 28, 1909, Francis Bacon, just as Soutine, moved in Paris quite soon, in 1927. Here he became aware of Soutine’s already legendary paintings of beef carcasses because, as he wrote, he had always since his boyhood in Ireland been fascinated to the point of obsession with slaughtered beef carcasses in local abattoirs. The exhibition in New York wants to demonstrate that "Soutine’s paintings of carcasses were a trigger for Bacon’s essential vision, possibly even the reason he had to become a painter. “He intuited from Soutine’s carcasses the basis for his art and art making" said the curators. The vibrant and violent colours and shapes of Soutine's works seem a good matching for the portraits of Bacon where emotions are much more important than the representation of a face.
"There are distinct links between the two painters - the curators of the exhibition wrote - direct painting and general studio practice, the equation of oil pigment with flesh, and a certain aggressive re-invention of Old Master paintings. Indeed, the connections between Bacon’s art and that of Soutine are immediately striking as well as less overt: both artists share a nuanced passion and energy toward paint, brushstroke, and the necessity of subject matter".
curated by Francesco Amorosino
From May 2nd to June 18th 2011
by Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow
Helly Nahmad Gallery, 975 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10075
Open: from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m to 6 p.m
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Phone: +1 212 879 2075
Fax: +1 212 737 1483