Exhibition review: Soutine's Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys at The Courtauld
Backstage Parisian life – especially the staff and dancing girls of the Folies Bergère and the Moulin Rouge – was a favourite theme of Toulouse- Lautrec, Degas and the Impressionists during the Belle Époque. They also were a source of inspiration for the Russian-French artist Chaim Soutine during the Twenties.
An exhibition, at the Courtauld Gallery, has collected 21 of his portraits of uniformed staff from the city’s hotels and restaurants. And what incredible portraits they are. The bellboys, pastry chefs, butcher boys and waiting staff are, by turns, aggressive, surely, modest, humble and beaten down. The rich textures of the paintings give the portraits life and resonance.
Soutine is not often shown in this country. There are only two portraits and a couple of his landscapes in UK collections and the Courtauld's exhibition is the first show on Soutine in the UK for 35 years. The exhibition ends 21 January. Grab the opportunity to see these great portraits while you can.
If you can't make it to the show, consider getting a copy of the catalogue which not only is a great record of the show but also adds a layer of fascination with comparisons between other people’s art and Soutine’s.