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The Best Man

Garçon d’honneur

This portrait owes its title, Garçon d’honneur [The Best Man], to the suit the model is wearing: black trousers and jacket, white shirt and bow tie. But it could just as well be an employee at a hotel or a waiter.
Chaïm Soutine did not find it necessary to paint the seat the young man is sitting on, which gives this portrait its strange character. Especially as he is set against an indeterminate background where only his shadow appears as if to support him.
The pose with the legs spread and the hands placed on the knees is reminiscent of Ingres' Portrait de Monsieur Bertin [Portrait of Monsieur Bertin]. But this frail young man, as if he were suspended in space with his downcast eyes, with a somewhat sad appearance seems to be the opposite of the great Bourgeois man depicted by Ingres who is firmly set and seated in society.
Soutine accentuated the distortion of perspective. The legs and hands are excessively long and the bust shortened. The figure seems slumped down in his invisible seat.

Provenance: Paul Guillaume; Domenica Walter