Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys


Start Date: October 19, 2017

End Date: January 21, 2018

Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys opening 19 October 2017 – 21 January 2018. The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House.


Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys brings together 25 rarely-seen portraits of hotel and restaurant workers who sat for Soutine in Paris and the south of France in the 1920s. It will be the first time that this group has been brought together from public and private collections around the world. It also represents the first thematic exhibition anywhere on Soutine, who has only been the subject of general survey shows.


This major international loan exhibition of works by Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943), will introduce a new generation to his art, exhibited here  in the UK for the first time in 35 years,  it will focus on paintings that established Soutine’s reputation as a major avant-garde painter in Paris in the 1920s, seen by many as the heir to van Gogh.


Portraiture was a key component of Soutine’s art and he produced some of the most powerful and expressive portraits of modern times. His ability to capture in paint the character, humanity and emotion of his sitters is the hallmark of his greatest work. This series is especially interesting as it offers a fascinating insight into a new social class of service personnel, who moved from the aristocratic household to the luxury hotels and restaurants that arose in the late 19th and early 20th century.


These often overlooked figures from France’s most fashionable places of leisure, including the famous Maxim’s, appealed to Soutine’s sense that profound emotion and a deep sense of humanity could be found in such humble sitters. The contrast between their working uniforms and the individuality of their faces adds to the emotional charge of these extraordinary portraits. Soutine strived to achieve the most powerful effects of colour from the bold whites, reds and blues of their different uniforms.


These portraits also played a key role in establishing his reputation and turning him from a struggling artist into a wealthy one. When he started the series, Soutine was living in near-poverty. These portraits helped to lift him out of these desperate circumstances as they were soon admired by friends and became prized by collectors. Today, they are considered among his greatest achievements