La Pauvrette By Chaim Soutine


Ooh, I've been going through boxes of books in storage, and there have been some great finds. [And also some total crap books that, what, I have no idea, except that at one point in my life it was apparently impossible for me to leave Rizzoli emptyhanded.]

On the bright side, there was also Maurice Tuchman's original 2-vol catalogue raisonne for Chaim Soutine, published in 1993, which I don't think I've opened for 15 years. It's so fantastic. Full-page, full-color illustrations for almost every work [of course, the Barnes's Soutines are reproduced in black & white.]

One painting I've never seen in person, and hadn't noticed before, is this late [c. 1934 or 1937] Portrait of a Small Child, also known as La Pauvrette. [The artist told Max Kaganovitch, the dealer who bought it in 1937, that she was embarrassed by her worn out shoes. He always painted from life, too, so I'm willing to believe he didn't just imagine this.]

What caught my eye this time--besides the kid's eyes, which, right??--was the abstract gridded dot pattern in the background. As if Soutine painted the girl on top of an Alma Thomas, or this was part of his geometric pointillism period, which, given his manic, spontaneous expressionism, would make him even more disturbing.

But it turns out to be linoleum. For whatever reason, I can't figure out, but maybe it was Soutine's perennial poverty, he painted this on a 9.5 x 15-inch piece of linoleum flooring.

Though he occasionally painted on wood, or on canvas mounted to a board, this is the only known painting Soutine did on linoleum. Kaganovitch wrote that upon purchasing the piece, the artist initially wanted to "finish" it by painting out the patterns, but he decided to leave it. Which seems unprecedented.

In 2006, Kaganovitch's heirs sold La Pauvrette at Sotheby's in London for around 388,000 pounds. So on the bright side, it's not in a museum, which means it is now on my to-buy list. On the other hand, to clear that list, I will need a billion dollars.

20 Jun 2006, Lot 457: LA PAUVRETTE, est. GBP 150,000-200,00 [sothebys]

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: September 10, 2012.

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