Modern Art Monday Presents: Chaim Soutine, Still Life with Rayfish

Still Life with Ray Fish
Photos By Gail

In Still Life with Ray Fish (1924), Chaim Soutine animates the components of this still life with a dynamic composition and energetic brush strokes. The rayfish (a fish similar to skate and fit for human consumption) presides over a table with its mouth agape, as though caught in a cry. The exposed flesh and spilled tomatoes imply and unsettling violence.

The Ray

The work’s motif was inspired by The Ray, a masterpiece by Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin. Rather than copying Chardin, Soutine set up similar objects in his studio and painted them from life, creating four versions in varying formats. Compared with Chardin’s painting, Soutine reduces the number of objects in the scene and crops the background to emphasize the expressive features of the ray.

Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, Chaim Soutine: Flesh, at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan (On Loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

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