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Still Life, Gladiolas

Chaim Soutine

European Art

Here, Chaim Soutine’s expressive flowers, luminous against the dark background, reflect the influence of the artists he most admired: Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco Goya, and Gustave Courbet. He made ten paintings of gladioli, perhaps drawn to these flowers because they were the color of blood, a substance depicted in many of his still lifes of dead animals. A critic in 1926 found blood an apt metaphor for Soutine’s painterly and emotional force: “His work looks to me like a hemorrhage. Before rendering his soul, the artist spits up all his blood. And each spurt gives birth to a new vision, singularly intense, tragic, and painful.”

Soutine struggled in poverty after arriving in Paris in 1913 from Russia (present-day Belarus). His fortunes changed in 1922, when the American collector Albert Barnes bought fifty-two of his paintings, likely including this one. Barnes gave the work to his wife, Laura, who in turn bequeathed it to the Brooklyn Museum.
MEDIUM Oil on canvas
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES ca. 1919
    DIMENSIONS 21 3/4 x 18 1/4 in. (55.2 x 46.4 cm) Frame: 27 x 23 1/2 in. (68.6 x 59.7 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed lower right: "Soutine"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Bequest of Laura L. Barnes
    PROVENANCE Prior to 1966, provenance not yet documented; by April 29, 1966, acquired by Laura Leggett Barnes of Merion, PA; 1967, bequeathed by Laura Leggett Barnes to the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Chaim Soutine (Smilavicy, present–day Belarus (former Russian Empire), 1893 – 1943, Paris, France). Still Life, Gladiolas, ca. 1919. Oil on canvas, 21 3/4 x 18 1/4 in. (55.2 x 46.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Laura L. Barnes, 67.24.24. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 67.24.24_PS9.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 67.24.24_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2015
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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