Hunger Art (Chaim Soutine)

003

“Still Life with Herring” sounds like a Jewish spoof on the French fine art tradition. From the same milieu of Russian Jews in Paris, Chaim Soutine is the anti-Chagall. There is nothing dreamy about his work. There is no lift off the ground. Only dead fowl hang in the air, or a carcass of beef. Soutine was all stomach. Maybe to suit recent trends in thought and theory, his recent show at the Jewish Museum was called “Flesh.” But that misses the fundamental truth of this version of the image of animal life, table, and plate in the still life tradition. The art on view was really about meat more than flesh, and more than meat it was about “hunger.” That hunger is what makes these paintings so unsettled and not still. A poor man, the artist only wants to eat. That was my takeaway, justified by the poor fork that appears as late as the 1924 painting of the hare, having appeared earlier in a picture of the herring on a plate with a cup and in a picture with the artichoke. Resembling bent fingers, the fork signals a desperation of hungry, human interest that is inherent in this body of work.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish though and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
This entry was posted in uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Hunger Art (Chaim Soutine)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s