The January 1923 edition of Les Arts à Paris announced the arrival of a great new artist on the Paris scene. It was in this magazine that Paul Guillaume recounted the discovery of the art of Chaïm Soutine by the American collector and patron Albert Barnes: 'I had gone one day to see a painting by Modigliani at the painter's studio, when I discovered in the corner of the room a painting that overwhelmed me - It was a Soutine - which represented a baker boy - a fabulous baker boy, fascinating, real, vigorous and colourful, baring a gigantic and superb ear, unexpected but just right; a masterpiece. I purchased it. Doctor Barnes saw the painting at my house: "But it's a peach", he exclaimed! The spontaneous pleasure Barnes expressed in front of this canvas was to determine Soutine's sudden fortune, and make him overnight, an acclaimed painter, sought after by collectors, and no longer sneered at.' Following this coup de foudre, upon his return to Merion, Pennsylvania Dr. Barnes published The Art of Painting, praising the work of the Soutine which immediately established him among the most celebrated artists of the Paris School.
When Soutine began to focus on painting the human figure towards the end of the Great War, he chose his subjects carefully. Instead of depicting members of the fashionable bourgeois class who revelled in the new wild life of Paris as so many of his predecessors had done, Soutine chose to celebrate the working class. Not just any working class, but specifically those men and women whose métiers depended on those belonging to classes. Grooms, valets, cooks and servants quickly become the protagonists of Soutine's painterly world, all dressed in tightly buttoned uniforms, staring blankly at the viewer, ready to serve. Painted in the immediate foreground, invading our space, these men and women become modern icons of the struggling working class.
Between 1919 and 1923 Soutine painted three versions of the seated baker boy, all three of which were in Paul Guillaume's possession at one time or another. While all three present different sitters, they share the same pose and same physical attributes, notably the extravagant ears, as well as red handkerchief held in tightly clenched fists. Perhaps most striking of all is the unrestrained painterliness and physical distortion of the figures. Soutine's expressionistic and agitated application of paint, his sonorous palette and willful distortion of form challenge the aesthetic values in the French grande tradition - its classical sense of order in nature and its emphasis on measure and clarity. This series also reflects Soutine's fascination with the use of a single color white or red, which he can broadly apply on the vast surfaces of the sitters' jackets. On closer inspection however, the baker boy's uniforms (in all three versions) reveal underlying expressive shades of red and lime green which seem to impregnate the handkerchief, not unlike blood seeping from a wound...his infamous boeuf écorché is still very much part of his esprit.
While we do not know with any certainty which version Barnes first admired, it is likely Le pâtissier, the one he eventually acquired, among more than twenty others by the artist still hanging in his Foundation today. Paul Guillaume acquired Le pâtissier au mouchoir rouge in the 1930s, which his widow, Madame Jean Walters donated in 1963 to the Musée de L'Orangerie.
By the early 1950s, the present version, Le pâtissier de Cagnes (also known as Le marmiton) was sold by Paul Guillaume to the celebrated British novelist Somerset Maugham (1874-1965). The painting remained in England, where it was housed in the prestigious collection of Sir Alexander Korda prior to its appearance at auction in 1962, at which time it entered the collection of the family of the present owner.
Last seen in public during the Soutine retrospective held at the Musée de L'Orangerie in 1973, where it was illustrated on the cover of the catalogue and on the exhibtion posters plastered throughout the capital, Christie's is honoured to present Le pâtissier de Cagnes on the market for the first time since 1962.
Le pâtissier de Cagnes
Oil on canvas
THE PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Group, 1929.
London, Tate Gallery, Twentieth Century Masterpieces, July - August 1952, no. 112.
Paris, Musée de l'Orangerie des Tuileries, Soutine, April - September 1973, no. 15 (illustrated on the cover).
25½ x 19¾ in. (65 x 50 cm.)
Arts à Paris, May 1926, p. 12 (illustrated)
M. Raynal, Anthologie de la peinture en France de 1906 à nos jours, Paris, 1927, p. 289 (illustrated).
W. George, 'Soutine', in Le Triangle, Paris, 1928 (illustrated).
M. Raynal, Modern French Painters, Paris, 1928, p. 264 (illustrated).
W. George, Arts à Paris, Paris, Spring 1929, p. 14 (illustrated).
E. Faure, Soutine, 1929, no. 15 (illustrated).
M. Gauthier, Art Vivant, 15 May 1930, p. 417.
R. Escholier, La peinture française XX e siècle, 1937, p. 138 (illustrated).
G. Bazin, History of Modern Painting, New York, London, Paris, 1951, p. 198 (illustrated).
H. Michonze, Les lettres françaises, 16-23 July 1953, p. 9 (illustrated).
G. Boudaille, Les lettres françaises, 25 June - 1 July 1959 (illustrated).
G. Talphir, Gazith, August - September 1959, pl. 7 (illustrated).
C. Roth, Jewish Art, London, 1961, pp. 651-652 (illustrated).
M. Tuchman, Art de France, 1964, p. 213 (illustrated in colour).
P. Courthion, Soutine, peintre du déchirant, Paris, 1972, p. 214 no. B (illustrated p. 37 and p. 214, fig. B).
J.-P. Crespelle, Journal du dimanche, 6 May 1973 (illustrated).
A. Werner, American Artist, December 1973, p. 51 (illustrated).
A. Werner, Chaïm Soutine, 1977, p. 56 (illustrated fig. 67).
J. Warnod, La Ruche et Montparnasse, 1978, p. 100 (illustrated).
Exh. cat., Gallery Bellman, New York, 1983-1984, p. 12.
Musée de l'Orangerie, Collection Jean Walter et Paul Guillaume, Paris, 1984, p. 264 (illustrated).
M. Tuchman, E. Dunow & Karl Perls, Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943), Catalogue raisonné, vol. II, Cologne, 1993, no. 61, p. 605 (illustrated).
M. Tuchman & E. Dunow, exh. cat., The impact of Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943): de Kooning, Pollock, Dubuffet, Bacon, Galerie Gmurzynska, Cologne, 2001 (illustrated in colour).
Léopold Zborowski, Paris.
Henri Bing, Paris.
Paul Guillaume, Paris, by 1926.
W. Somerset Maugham, London.
Mrs. Somerset Maugham, London.
Lady John Hope, London, by descent from the above.
Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd., London.
Sir Alexander Korda, London, by whom acquired from the above in November 1955; his sale, Sotheby's, London, 14 June 1962, lot 30.
Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner.