Unlike Modigliani, Soutine varied his themes. The landscape did not really appeal him. The rotten meats brought to the artist some sensorial communion with his environment by their unbearable odor. For the human dimension, Soutine chose to highlight the humblest employees of hotels and restaurants.
These men have their own petty and miserable life beyond the disguise of their job. They are ugly and unintelligent in their sometimes ridiculous and always ill-fitting uniforms. It is the portrait of a pastry cook that drew at first the enthusiasm of Barnes onto the art of Soutine.
Soutine was hypersensitive. He did not plan to withstand the emotional stress of a sitting session with one of his few friends and could not become a worldly artist. Pastry cooks, hotel boys and valets interested him because he had no sympathy for them. Their defects are both picturesque and monstrous.
On November 16 in New York, Christie's sells Le Garçon d'étage (the floor groom), oil on canvas 78 x 67 cm painted circa 1928, lot 21 B estimated $ 6M.
The character is decidedly unfriendly with too little eyes under thick eyebrows, prominent ears and the flattened nose of a boxer or brawler. He is no longer an apprentice but his age is indefinable. He is uncomfortable in his coat and his collar is crumpled.
Soutine never commented his art. I cannot imagine that he spent time in front of such guys. He was possibly working from memory.
SOLD for $ 6.5M including premium