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Woman Knitting, c. 1924-25

Chaim Soutine
French, 1893-1943
Oil on canvas
32-1/2 x 23-1/2 in. (82.55 x 59.69 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
© The Norton Simon Foundation

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Despite the odds stacked against him as the tenth of eleven children from a poor Lithuanian family, Chaim Soutine developed a passion for art and moved to Paris to pursue his ambition. Under the tutelage of the sophisticated and well-read Amedeo Modigliani, whose portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne can be seen at right, Soutine began to practice his craft in earnest. With wildly expressionistic paint handling quite distinct from that of his mentor, Soutine’s portraits are infused with a vitality—even frenzy—that destabilizes the formality of their frontal poses. Indeed, many of his pictures have a caricature-like quality that at once derides and celebrates the particularities of the sitter. The wide eyes, avian nose, and elongated neck of the woman seen here, coupled with the inflated shoulders and cinched waist of her gown, communicate the physical idiosyncrasies of a particular, albeit unnamed, individual.

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