Chemin de la Fontaine des Tins à Céret, ca. 1920

Chaïm Soutine, Russian, active in France, 1893–1943

Chemin de la Fontaine des Tins à Céret, ca. 1920

Oil on canvas
The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, on long-term loan to the Princeton University Art Museum
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
photo: Bruce M. White

In 1913, Soutine immigrated to Paris, where he worked with a close-knit group of artists in the Parisian neighborhood of Montparnasse. Alongside his good friend Amedeo Modigliani, Soutine developed what was then a radical style of painting—animated and expressive. His subjects ranged from portraits to still-lifes to landscapes like the one seen here, which represents a narrow canyon in the hills near Céret.

Curator Kelly Baum:

In some ways, this painting is the most conventional of the three landscapes in the Pearlman collection, thanks to the footpath that leads our eye from foreground to background, inviting us to enter the painting. The gradual diminution of the size of the buildings at the top left also creates the sensation of spatial recession. This illusion is by no means complete, however. Take the emphatic brushstrokes that envelop the canvas: Soutine certainly intended them to represent the dense thicket of trees, bushes, and shrubs lining the ravine. But not every mark corresponds to a specific object, and many seem to have shed their illustrative function completely. Liberated from the task of description, these painted marks assert their identity as precisely that: painted marks. One’s final impression of Chemin is of a matted, impenetrable skein of brushstrokes, a web of painted marks that riddles the distinction between front and back, this and that.