“The story of Soutine is too true to be believed,” [novelist Waldemer] George [who wrote the first serious study of the painter]. “It is a story for Charlie Chaplin,”  a Cinderella story of transformation from darkness into poverty into wealth and recognition. George felt forced to set it down, he said, so that he could place Soutine “in his exact ambiance, this ambiance of deep despair that shapes his soul.”

George described Soutine as a painter who “pushes aside all norms transgresses the limits of logic, breaks all chains, tears all ropes..what is the meaning of this art,” George went on, “whose origin is impossible to establish, that knows no law nor national influence nor guiding principles, that is not linked to any tradition? Art of exile or even barbarian art? I defy anyone to discover the line of descent of Soutine.” George acknowledged a resemblance to the work of van Gogh but denied that Soutine was a follower of the Dutch painter.

And then in probably the most persuasive words of his study, George concluded that Soutine painted without any “studies of style or plans for perfection…Each of his works looks like a hemorrhage,” the critic said. “Before portraying his soul, the painter spits out all his blood, and each rivulet of blood gives birth to a vision that is new, singularly intense, tragic and painful”…


Soutine had spent some time in the kosher butcher shop in Smilovitichi [the Russian town where he was born and raised] and kept at least one memory from those days. “Once I saw the village butcher slice the neck of a bird and drain the blood out of it,” he recalled. “I wanted to cry out, but his joyful expression caught the sound in my throat. This cry, I always feel it is there…When I painted the beef carcass it was still this cry that I wanted to liberate. I have still not succeeded.”

–Stanley Meisler, Shocking Paris: Soutine, Chagall and the Outsiders of Montparnasse



  1. As someone living in a diocese with no bishop, I am trying real hard not to be jealous. It is a sin, after all.

  2. Maybe I am a little dense, but how is the title related to the story??

  3. Except for the Matthew 9:36 quote.

  4. I may have been spending a little TOO much time by myself, making connections in my head, as another friend was confused as well, Bruce.
    To me, the painting of the priest Man of Prayer, Soutine's anguished cry of the human heart, the evocation of the Eucharist in the flayed rabbit and the word 'hemorrhage", and the concluding quote about Christ's compassion for we sheep without a shepherd were all connected. Subtext: being a vicar of Christ is about caring for the least of these and not about, say, power, property, honor or prestige…

    I attended the pre-ordination Vespers at the L.A. Cathedral, and the post-ordination dinner last night. Just beautiful. These really are pastors. Serendipitously (I never know "anyone" at these things, not that I go to many of them), I sat next to auxiliary Bishop Eduardo Nevares of Phoenix. He was delightful and I grilled him about the very interesting process of how a priest learns he's been made bishop (which is an out-of-the-blue call from the Nuncio)…Anyway, thanks for reading and my apologies for the unclear title.

  5. Thanks, Heather, for explaining the connections. I guess I am a little too left brained. Do you care to add anything about the girl in the red blouse?

    I always struggle to try and understand van Gogh and now you have given me another soul who I can try to relate to!

    1. I just love the girl in the red blouse because she's like looking in a mirror. Like many of Soutine's subjects, she seems squirrelly, anxious, suspicious, frightened–and therefore deeply human.

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