Between 1926 and 1928, Soutine went several times to the spa of Châtel-Guyon to take the waters, and it was here that he met Madeleine and Marcellin Castaing, collectors who were among the first to buy one of his works from the art dealer Léopold Zborowski (1889-1932), and subsequently became the artist’s patrons. It was probably during one of these visits that Soutine had the opportunity to observe the staff at the hotel, and paint a series of portraits of them. It was in that year, 1927, with his images of grooms and huntsmen, that his obsession with the colour red reached its peak.
The subject is portrayed here with hands on hips, arms akimbo in a somewhat aggressive pose. His face, as is often the case in Soutine’s work, is coarse and unattractive, with a huge forehead, and narrow pointed chin. His ears are red and shapeless; the red highlights in the pigmentation of his skin echo the red of his waistcoat. His chest looks constrained in his tight-fitting uniform, his shoulders are dissymmetrical, and his hands misshapen.
Provenance: H. Bing, Paris; Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter