Oil on canvas
Woman in Red is one of Chaïm Soutine’s finest portraits. Sat in a chair with a curved back and arms against a background washed in green, the woman’s twisted body follows the contours of the seat. Her knotted, disproportionately large hands which are created with thick, lively strokes are treated like the necks and feet of his fowl. Her face, topped by an unlikely-looking hat, is “monstrous, blurred, covered in lumpy bruises and riddled with holes” (Elie Faure), and she has a foolish fixed grin suggestive of the psychological impairments of the village idiots, mad people and senile old people whom he painted incessantly during this period. The dominant colour is red, which he favoured in his portraits (dresses, the uniforms of bellboys, menservants or choir boys) creating a sort of chaos in which lines and volumes merge. The artist’s expressiveness and very physical use of paint texture convey a tragic view of humanity which he shared with the masters he admired - Rembrandt and Goya. Soutine painted very few self-portraits (there are only three known examples).