Leaning Tree

Arbre couché

The theme of the tree is common in Soutine’s painting. Several writers have highlighted the fact that Soutine might have celebrated trees in traditional rituals in the forest region where he grew up. In this painting, the tree is right in the foreground, partially concealing a group of houses that can be glimpsed behind it. It almost entirely obscures the blue sky. The fallen trunk, probably blown over by the force of the wind, creates an upward diagonal movement, and the movement of the foliage completes the impression of liveliness that emanates from the painting. This landscape was painted in Cagnes in the south of France, and was part of a series depicting a collection of houses at various levels on a hillside, hidden by a large tree in the foreground. We come across the theme of the tree at later stages in his career. In 1929, he made several versions of l’Arbre de Vence [The Tree of Vence], an enormous ash tree, its trunk encircled by a bench. But the theme of the tree held a special importance for him right until the end of his life as we see in the landscapes he painted in Chartres and Champigny.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter