Still Life with a Pheasant

Nature morte au faisan

In his series of still lifes with fowl, Soutine painted several pheasants whose highly coloured plumage fascinated him.
This still life resembles a corpse or even the dead Christ laid out on his shroud. The bird is indeed placed on a white cloth, a veritable winding sheet, and watched over by the white jug in the background. A mysterious object, probably a spoon, seems to spurt out of its spout. The table is tilted towards the viewer as if to offer a better view. The surging forms bring the painting to life; everything appears to undulate: the table, the pheasant’s body and the cloth it lies on. The red curve of the pepper accentuates the bird’s body and emphasises this instability.
The animal’s plumage is an opportunity for an orgy of colours: reds, oranges, ochres and blue-grey. Swirls and streaks of bright yellow enliven the white of the cloth, which in turn enhances the animal. The brushwork on the pheasant is lively, developing into thick impasto in parts, which, strangely, endows this inert subject with energy. A new dynamism emerges from the concentration of all these contrasting elements in the painting.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter