Side of Beef and Calf’s Head

Bœuf et tête de veau

Chaïm Soutine seemed to be fascinated by the subject of the beef carcass, which he depicted on numerous occasions in his paintings. He produced about ten paintings of beef during 1925. At that time, Soutine had a huge studio in the rue du Saint-Gothard, not far from Montparnasse, where he had pieces of animal carcasses delivered, which he would immediately set about painting. The attraction of this motif could have been the result of a traumatic childhood memory. The journalist Emile Szyttia recounted these words spoken by Soutine: "…once I saw the village butcher slice the neck of a goose and drain the blood out of it. I wanted to cry out, but his joyful expression caught the sound in my throat." He later added: "When I painted the beef carcass it was still this cry that I wanted to liberate. I have still not succeeded." In this painting, the beef carcass occupies the majority of the canvas, while, beside it, a calf’s head hangs from a butcher’s hook. The broad brushstrokes in shades of red and yellow depicting the bloody flesh stand out against a plain dark background. As well as childhood memories, we should also point out Soutine’s admiration for the Dutch painter Rembrandt (1606-1669), whose paintings he had admired at the Louvre, particularly his Bœuf écorché [Carcass of Beef] from 1655.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter