Montparnasse Newspaper Seller
Chaïm Soutine (Smilovitchi, 1893 – Paris, 1943)
Paris, circa 1925
Oil on canvas, 29 x 18 cm
Paris, mahJ, gift of Claire Maratier
Chaïm Soutine (Smilovitchi, 1893 – Paris, 1943), Montparnasse Newspaper Seller, circa 1925, gift of Claire Maratier
Chaim Soutine was born into a poor family in a village in Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire. In 1906, with his friend the painter Michel Kikoïne (1892-1968), he attended drawing classes in Minsk then, from 1910 to 1913, both studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vilna, where they met Pinchus Krémègne (1890-1981).
When he arrived in Paris in 1912 Soutine joined Kikoïne and Krémègne at La Ruche, an artists’ colony providing low-rent studios where many other foreigners also lived and worked.
After ten years of poverty, his work was discovered in 1923 by the American art collector Albert C. Barnes, who bought many of his pictures. Supported by the art dealer Paul Guillaume, he found himself suddenly famous and financially secure. Over the ensuing years, he had one-man exhibitions at Galerie Bing (1927), Galerie Quatre Chemins (1928) and Galerie Bernheim-Jeune (1929) and showed at the "École de Paris" exhibition at Galerie de la Renaissance (1929).
Several witnesses recounted that Soutine destroyed a great many of his pictures. He also sometimes cut paintings up, keeping only the part that interested him. According to Claire Maratier, Michel Kikoïne’s daughter, her father begged Soutine to not completely destroy The Newspaper Seller and keep the face. Soutine acquiesced and Kikoïne subsequently sold the work to his doctor, only to buy it back later.
Claire Maratier (1915-2013) created the Fondation Pro mahJ in 2003 to support the museum’s activities and particularly its exhibitions and acquisitions. She also generously donated eighteen works by the School of Paris, by foreign artists who arrived in the French capital in the early 20th century seeking conditions more favourable for their creativity. This donation includes another picture by Soutine, Céret Landscape, painted in 1919.