Le gros arbre bleu [The Large Blue Tree] was painted by Soutine during a stay in Céret from 1919 to 1922. The tree twists and undulates in the centre of the painting as if caught up in a gust of wind. The trunk seems ready to break in two. The dark sky creates an oppressive climate. It seems like we are witnessing the beginnings of a storm. However, this may not truly have been the case. The sky during this period was often painted in the same dark blue and Soutine enjoyed depicting twisted trees that seem shaken by storms. In Place de l’Ormeau à Céret (private collection) of 1920, Soutine painted another tree that is toppling over to the right. These dramatic landscapes express the painter's intimate emotions as much as they do the reality.
In these landscapes of Céret, the buildings often slope steeply to the right. This is the case here for the two houses that frame the tree. The road is also slanting to the right. Two people can be seen in the foreground on the left: a seated woman wearing a hat and a man standing upright whose head disappears into the landscape. The man leaning to the left counterbalances the slope of the house on the right. In landscapes from the Céret period, Soutine sometimes begins to introduce figures like in Personnages assis place de la liberté à Céret (private collection), 1920.
Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter