Moral Debunking Of Existential Garden Through Aesthetic Debauchery Of The Artistic Form – Chaim Soutine And Human World

    Soutine is “artiste maudit”, the artist laboring under a curse. He is the perfect prototype of the irremediable luck of adaptation, which places individual and his instinct in opposition to every aspect of his surroundings.
    Raimond Cogniat, “Soutine”, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1973, p. 6

    Soutine’s paintings, with their vivid colors and painful ruthlessness, have the brilliance and intensity. They must be regarded as mystical windows.
    Raimond Cogniat, Ibid, p. 68

    The violence of Soutine’s expressionism…, his savage style in depicting interlacing trees battling furiously against the wind.
    Raimond Cogniat, Ibid, p. 68, 77

    Soutine’s landscapes and subject studies are painted with thick paint in impassionate brush strokes which seem to carve the forms into being… Soutine did at least four large paintings from the carcass of a steer which he bought and kept in his studio. As the steer putrefied and reds changed to greens and browns, he paid a model to sit and fan away the flies that covered it. He also bought blood to freshen up the color. When complaints from neighbors brought the police Soutine argued that art was more important than hygiene.
    Trewin Copplestone, “Modern Art”, Exeter Books, New York, 1985, p. 149, 154
    The poetic madness of lips
    is enough to make vineyards
    move vomiting
    the lava of hate.
    And your daughters will be hookers
    and your sons will be poets.

    You will not have a comfort, ants,
    on my blood.

    Marina Tsvetaeva, “The Poem of the Mountain”

    Chaim Soutine, “Return from School After he Storm”, 1939

    Chaim Soutine, “Children on the Road”, 1938

    Human beings are spoiled by their belief in god’s concern about human survival and prosperity. For this reason they form a prejudice that our environment as our eyes see it, is the space created by god for our needs and satisfactions. For us it’s completely alien to imagine that nature can have an autonomy from our wants and expectations and deserves our respect, if not reverie. We imply that how we see the world – with a naturalistic clarity, is, somehow, the objective, essential representation of reality, which leaves us free to calculate – what else we can get from our natural environment. In other words – nature is created for our sake.

    Soutine dares to challenge the human authoritatively consumptive view of the world, when people perceive nature as if it is inviting our attention, as if it is asking human race to do with it whatever it wants as the conqueror in front of a surrendered enemy.

    Indeed, what can be more peaceful, relaxed and refreshing than to be returning home from school (“Return From School After The Storm”, 1939) or be on the sandy road amidst the pasture in a sunny day (“Children on the Road”, 1938). But Soutine in these two paintings represents nature as not only completely independent from human needs and tastes but as a substance not even friendly to human beings – to human perception and human tastes, like mother’s breast can sometimes act as having disciplinarian intents towards a capricious baby. With Soutine’s landscapes we feel the stubborn power of nature resisting our not only visual expectations, but as with global warming even “rebelling” and endangering human security and comfort. It is, as if, Soutine already in the first half of the 20th century predicted nature’s severe response to our specie’s complacent and gluttonous greed, and depicted nature’s reaction as sometimes full of animosity and even menacingly dangerous.

    Look at the sky in both paintings, full of fury and overfilled with aggression towards the forest which is answering back. In “Return…” some clouds look like predatory birds attacking the treetops of the forest. In “Children…” it is the forest, as if, attacking the clouds. The impression from both paintings is that children are trying to escape from the battle between sky and earth, but also are trying to detour the human beings as viewers of the paintings.

    The two paintings have a similar composition – both are centered on the motif of forest as a background and road cutting through meadows towards, implyingly, the human settlements, as if, children are running away from nature to people, but, as if, also detouring us as a possible danger, although alternative one to that of nature. Are children “caught” by the painter’s inspiration as “trapped” between nature and civilization as two dangers? The both roads hit the low margin of paintings, as if, they are leading not necessary to the place where viewers-contemporaries of Soutine are supposed to be located and not only to the point in time where we are looking at them today, but, may be, even farther, than the point in history where we, while focusing on Soutine’s art, are located in time. It is, as if, the painter addresses the multiple audiences including the people of the farther future, warning them about the dangers of nature‘s wrath of vengeance, as if he already knew about the ecological catastrophe we in 21st century only staring to notice, but also hints at the danger of humanity to itself and to the world.

    The children we see in both paintings on the roads are deprived of a wholesome representation – their faces and bodies are deformed. Expressionistic radicalness of Soutine’s artistic “mis-depiction” of children’s faces and bodies, when the formal effects, as if, penetrate the human flesh and mis-construct it is especially provocative when it applies to the depiction of children whom adults like to see as healthy and naturally gracious. May be, Soutine not only wanted to show children of his times as being deformed by the conditions of life between two World Wars, but was predicting the coming world of Holocaust and wars in 21st century enhanced with high tech bombing when murder of civilians including children became the daily occurrences, or rich conservatives’ obsession with austerity for the poor, needy, elderly and invalids. Probably, Soutine wanted to show his contemporaries what the children of future can look like, when nature and/or human efforts will crush human life on the planetary scope, as many scientists today predict. What for impressionists was a matter of generous perception of the world as the grateful tribute to creation, for the expressionist Soutine became the visual essence of the present and the future, which the artist, correspondingly, discerns or predicts. Isn’t this essence between the present and the future, according to Soutine, the same essence?

    We should praise Soutine as a great artist of visual provocation for being capable to invent his unique style and base on the very form of his creative intentions his challenging descriptions and predictions of the manmade (including ecological) disasters and anthropological decline. The Radicalness of an artistic style – the distance between ordinary – naturalistic perception and artistically innovative one is a value in itself. It enriches the human creative potentials and makes human spiritual sensitivity sharper, more dense and solid and more versatile.

    In Soutine’s creativity art of painting takes a radical victory over visual routine of human perception. The painter widens the world we belong to and alerts our minds to its independence from us and our expectations.