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Woman Knitting, c. 1924-25

Chaim Soutine

Russian, 1894-1943
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

Not on view

In spite of being the tenth of eleven children in a poor Lithuanian-Jewish family, Chaim Soutine managed to develop a passion for art. With the aid of a patron he moved to Paris, and under the mentorship of the sophisticated and well-read Amedeo Modigliani, Soutine began to practice his craft in earnest. His brushwork was so deeply intuitive and wildly expressionistic that his paintings served as lodestones for the generation of Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s. With their dramatic explosions of painterly gesture, Soutine’s portraits are infused with a vitality, even frenzy, that demolishes the rigidity of their full frontal pose. Indeed, so much distortion is created that many of these pictures have a caricatural quality that at once derides and communicates the individuality of the sitter. Here, the wide eyes, avian nose and elongated neck of the sitter, coupled with the inflated shoulders and cinched waist of her gown, inevitably relay the physical idiosyncrasies belonging to a particular, albeit unnamed, individual.

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