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The Barnes Foundation Presents Soutine / De Kooning: Conversations In Paint

Willem de Kooning. Woman II, 1952. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller, 1955. Artwork

@ © 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, New York

Chaïm Soutine. The Communicant (The Bride), c. 1924. The Lewis Collection. Artwork

@ © 2021 Artist Rights Society (ARS), NY. Image © 2015 Christie’s Images Limited

Sun, Mar 7 - Sun, Aug 8  2021

World premiere of exhibition exploring affinities between the work of artists Chaïm Soutine and Willem de Kooning
March 7–August 8, 2021

In March 2021, the Barnes Foundation will present the world premiere of Soutine / de Kooning: Conversations in Paint, an exhibition organized by the Barnes and Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie, Paris,  exploring the affinities between the work of Lithuanian artist Chaïm Soutine (1893– 1943) and Dutch-American abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning (1904–1997). On  view in the Barnes’s Roberts Gallery from March 7 through August 8, 2021, this  presentation considers how Soutine’s paintings, with their built-up surfaces and  energetic brushwork, served the art of de Kooning and helped shape his groundbreaking  abstract figurative works in the late 1940s and beyond.

Soutine / de Kooning: Conversations in Paint at the Barnes is sponsored by Comcast  NBCUniversal and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional support comes  from the David Berg Foundation, Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman, Dietz & Watson, Robbi  and Bruce Toll, Sueyun and Gene Locks, and Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice.

Co-curated by Simonetta Fraquelli, consultant curator for the Barnes Foundation, and  Claire Bernardi, chief curator of paintings at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Soutine /  de Kooning: Conversations in Paint features 42 paintings and explores key moments in  the history of the reception and interpretation of each artist’s work. The exhibition is  structured around a series of themes, including the oscillation between the figurative and  the abstract; the conflation of figure and landscape; the artists’ mutual fascination with  painting flesh; and the similarities in their working practice.

“Rooted in the rich holdings of Soutine’s work found at the Barnes and Musée de  l’Orangerie, the genesis of this exhibition arose from the desire to contextualize our  collections for modern-day audiences and to promote deeper study of the historical links between artists in Europe and America,” says Fraquelli. “In uniting these paintings by  Soutine and de Kooning—two important figures in the history of art who never met one  another, and who hailed from very different, individual universes—we witness a  remarkable visual dialogue unfolding between the works.”

The expressive force of Soutine’s paintings, coupled with his image as a struggling bohemian artist living in Paris during the interwar years, imparted a particular influence  on a new generation of postwar painters in the United States. Soutine was viewed by  many as a herald of American abstract expressionism, and his gestural, richly impastoed  canvases were presented as an antecedent for contemporary American painting. This

exhibition considers how Soutine’s work had a decisive impact on the development of  de Kooning’s art, especially following Soutine’s celebrated posthumous retrospective at  the Museum of Modern Art in 1950, which de Kooning undoubtedly visited. In 1977,  de Kooning declared: “I think I would choose Soutine [as my favorite artist] . . . I’ve  always been crazy about Soutine—all of his paintings.” De Kooning, more than any other  artist of his generation, understood the tension between the opposing poles in Soutine’s  work: a search for structure and a passionate connection to art history. De Kooning was  the only abstract expressionist who continued to praise Soutine throughout his career  and to credit him with being important for the development of his own work.

“Dr. Albert Barnes played a decisive role in Soutine’s career,” says Nancy Ireson, Deputy  Director for Collections and Exhibitions & Gund Family Chief Curator at the Barnes. “In  1922, he discovered one of Soutine’s pastry chef portraits and quickly became enamored  with his expressive paintings. He began voraciously collecting Soutine’s work and, in

doing so, played an integral role in establishing the artist’s popularity and helping bring  about a spectacular rise in Soutine’s prices, which served to protect the artist from  financial hardship for the remainder of his life. Also, it is clear that a significant turning  point in de Kooning’s work—evident in his lauded Woman paintings in the 1950s— coincided not only with the MoMA’s retrospective but also with de Kooning’s visit to the  Barnes with his wife, Elaine de Kooning, in June 1952. We hope this exhibition will shine  a light on the importance of artistic influences over generations, which is something that  Dr. Barnes himself had a keen interest in highlighting through the arrangement of his  collection.”

Exhibition highlights include key paintings by both artists, including:

– Soutine’s Hill at Céret, c. 1921 (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), a well known example of the artist’s Céret landscapes, which were singled out as  precursors of de Kooning’s paintings by later critics;

– Examples of Soutine’s portraits of bellboys and pastry chefs, such as The Little  Pastry Cook, 1922–23 (Musée de l’Orangerie), which appealed particularly to  Dr. Barnes;

– Soutine’s Portrait of Madeleine Castaing, c. 1929 (Metropolitan Museum  of Art, New York), an incisive portrait of the artist’s other great patron; – Soutine’s Winding Road, Near Gréolières; Landscape with White  Building; and Landscape with House and Tree, c. 1920–21, works from  the Barnes collection that are not usually on display;

– Woman paintings by de Kooning from the early 1950s—for which he is perhaps  best known and which reveal his admiration of Soutine’s art—such as Woman II, 1952 (Museum of Modern Art) and Woman as Landscape,  1954–55 (private collection); and

– … Whose Name Was Writ in Water, 1975 (Solomon R. Guggenheim  Museum, New York), one of de Kooning’s later, more abstract works, painted in  the 1970s at a time when he was revisiting the art of Soutine.

Following its premiere at the Barnes Foundation, Soutine / de Kooning: Conversations  in Paint will be on view at the Musée de l’Orangerie from September 15, 2021, through January 10, 2022.


This exhibition is organized by the Barnes Foundation and the Musées d’Orsay et de  l’Orangerie, Paris. It is co-curated by Simonetta Fraquelli, consultant curator for the  Barnes Foundation, and Claire Bernardi, chief curator of paintings at the Musée d’Orsay,  Paris.


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