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Soutine and the Problem of Expressionism

THE LIFE OF CHAIM SOUTINE is a harrowing fable of aspirations impossible to realize, emotions impossible to appease, appetites impossible to satisfy. It is all the more harrowing for being so familiar, not only in the particularities of the artist’s own biography but in the archetype of the suffering Jew which that biography evokes with such intense drama and despair. No matter that this archetype has become a slightly shopworn fixture of our commercial culture. Soutine recalls us to its essential shape and substance—to an adversity of spirit that is unalterable and unremitting even in the face of worldly acclaim and success.

At the same time, Soutine is—above all—a painter, an artist of a certain type, dreaming the dream of the museums, bending his will, his talent, the very marrow of his vitality, to the realization of an art which the dimensions of his own temperament and the desperation

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