Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys

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Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys

19 October 2017 – 21 January 2018

‘Tremendous…a knockout experience’ 

★★★★★  Evening Standard

This exhibition, held at The Courtauld Gallery from 19 October 2017 to 21 January 2018, brings together an outstanding group of portraits by Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943). Soutine was one of the leading painters in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s and was seen by many as the heir to Vincent van Gogh. This major exhibition is the first time he has been exhibited in the United Kingdom in 35 years.

In the early 1920s, Soutine became fascinated by the cooks and waiting staff of French hotels and restaurants, attired in boldly coloured uniforms. Over the next decade, these humble models sat for him in Paris and the south of France. The resulting series of portraits offer powerful images of a new social class of service personnel, who moved from aristocratic households of past centuries 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 restaurant in Paris, appealed to Soutine’s idea that profound emotion and a deep sense of humanity could be found in such modest sitters. He strived to achieve the most forceful effects of colour from the bold whites, reds and blues of their different liveries.

These portraits played a key role in establishing Soutine’s reputation and turned him from a struggling painter into a wealthy one. When he started the series, Soutine, an immigrant from Russia, was living in near-poverty alongside other artists, including his closest friend, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920). In 1923 the American collector Albert C. Barnes saw one of Soutine’s early paintings of a pastry chef and thought it one of the greatest modern works he had ever seen. He demanded to see more paintings by Soutine and bought some fifty works on the spot. This helped lift Soutine out of his desperate circumstances and brought him to greater prominence. His portraits of hotel and restaurant workers became especially prized by other collectors and today are considered among his greatest achievements.

This exhibition has been sponsored by:
The Friends of The Courtauld
The Garcia Family Foundation



Included in your admission ticket for the Gallery.

There is no requirement to book tickets in advance. Tickets can be obtained on arrival, but you may need to queue for a few moments during busy periods.  View our opening hours and admission prices.

If you wish to see this exhibition, please select a date between 19 October 2017 and 21 January 2018 when booking tickets. 

Learning Resource

Download Artist and Sitter

Press Release

Download Press Release

Photography Policy

Whilst The Courtauld Gallery understands that many visitors wish to take photographs of works for personal use, photography in Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters and Bellboys is not permitted at any time.

Our temporary exhibitions are comprised of loans from other museums, galleries and private collections. To comply with our lenders’ terms and conditions, we are not permitted to allow photography in this exhibition,

Following best practice allows us to continue borrowing from external lenders and produce exhibitions of this quality and calibre for the public to enjoy.

Photography without flash is permitted throughout the rest of the Gallery.

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