Chaïm Soutine, a Jewish painter, was born on January 13, 1893 in Smilavichi (which is now in Belarus), a country on the western border of Russia. Soutine was the tenth of eleven children, their father a tailor. As a child, he took art lessons in the nearby town of Minsk. In 1910, he applied for admission to the School of Fine Arts in Vilna; however, he failed the entrance exam on his first try. He was later successful in enrollment after private lessons from one of the school’s teachers. In 1913, Soutine traveled to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts under Fernand Cormon.
For a time, Chaïm Soutine lived at La Ruche, a residence for struggling artist in Montparnasse. Here he became friends with Amedeo Modigliani, who painted Soutine’s portrait several times, most famously in 1917. The portrait was painted on a door of an apartment belonging to Léopold Zborowski, their art dealer. Zborowski supported Soutine through World War I, taking Soutine with him to Nice to escape the German bombing of Paris. After the war Paul Guillaume, a highly influential art dealer, began to champion the artist’s work. In 1923, prominent American collector Albert C. Barnes bought 60 of Soutine’s paintings.
From 1918 to 1922, Soutine traveled frequently and completed over 200 paintings, sixty of which were purchased by Philadelphia collector, Albert Barnes. Barnes wrote published articles about the quality of Soutine’s paintings. These articles enhanced Soutine’s reputation and brought him more financial stability.
Chaïm Soutine once kept an animal carcass in his studio so he could paint it, resulting in Carcass of Beef. The stench of the dead animal drove neighbors to send for the police, to whom Soutine lectured the relative importance of art over hygiene. He painted 10 works in this series, which have since become his most iconic. These paintings were inspired by Rembrant’s still life of carcasses.
The majority of Chaïm Soutine’s paintings were created from 1920 to 1929. He held his first exhibition in Chicago in 1935. He seldom showed his works, however he did take part in The Origins and Development of International Independent Art exhibition held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in 1937 in Paris. Soon thereafter, Soutine had to escape from France in order to avoid arrest by the Gestapo. He was on the move from place to place, and was foced to seek shelter outdoors in the forests. Soutine suffered from a stomach ulcer, and left his hiding place for Paris to undergo emergency surgery. The surgery failed to save his life. Chaïm Soutine died of a perforated ulcer on August 9, 1943.