Soutine spent the summer of 1939 at Cèvry-sur-Serein, near Auxerre in the department of the Yonne. He was with Gerda Groth, a German refugee whom he had met in 1937 and whom he nicknamed Mlle Garde. At the outbreak of World War II in September both Soutine and Groth, as foreigners, were forbidden to leave Cèvry. Soutine was eventually allowed to return to Paris for health reasons but was never again to see Groth, who was permitted to return to Paris the following year only to be interned with other Germans living in Paris.
The landscapes of the late 1930s and 1940s represent a return for Soutine to the complex compositions of the Céret and Cagnes paintings of the 1920s. Since this earlier period, Soutine had undergone a process of simplification, relying on depictions of a single object and its relationship to its surroundings. With the Auxerre landscapes from 1939, however, Soutine reintroduced varied compositional structures and multiplicity of forms. 'In some ways, Soutine travels full circle in these landscapes, reinvesting the energies that had animated the Céret pictures into an image that is now anchored with a more structured and "traditional" armature. The energy is no longer equated with chaos and anarchy and compression but is directed and contained by readable forms in a definable space. There is the same rhythm that animates forms, the same dynamism permeating the whole, but the growing stress on clarity and recognizability, developing throughout his landscape oeuvre, now effects a reorganization and rechanneling of these sensations. Before, the paint and brushstroke abstractly generated metaphors of wind, atmosphere and storm; now Soutine is painting the wind actually hitting and passing through the tree' (M. Tuchman, E. Dunow and K. Perls, op. cit., p. 99).
Arbres à Auxerre
Oil on canvas
Signed 'Soutine' (lower left)
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Cent tableaux de Soutine, 1959, no. 114.
London, Crane Kalman Gallery, Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Paintings, November-December 1961, no. 24 (illustrated).
London, Tate Gallery and Edinburgh Arts Festival, Chaïm Soutine, 1893-1943, August-November 1963, p. 26, no. 54.
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, Chaïm Soutine, 1893-1943, February-April 1968, no. 86 (illustrated).
Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum; Tübingen, Kunsthalle; London, Hayward Gallery and Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Chaïm Soutine, 1893-1943, December 1981-February 1982, no. 86.
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
28¾ x 23 5/8 in. (73 x 60 cm.)
A. Forge, Soutine, London, 1965, no. 46.
P. Courthion, Soutine, Peintre du dichirant, Lausanne, 1972, p. 286, fig. D (illustrated).
M. Tuchman, E. Dunow and K. Perls, Chaïm Soutine, Catalogue raisonné, Cologne, 1993, vol. I, p. 306, no. 167 (illustrated in color, p. 307).
Galerie Zborowski, Paris.
Galerie René Gimpel, Paris.
Dr. E.L. Keyes, New York.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, London, 26 March 1958, lot 148.
Anon. (acquired at the above sale by the family of the owner); sale, Christie's, London, 23 June 2004, lot 196.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.