Carcass of Beef

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Chaim Soutine, Carcass of Beef, 1925
By SARAH XU

Expressionism was the first authentic idea in created in Germany and it is also sometimes known as German Expressionism. Expressionism regards the emotional strength of the paintings' subjects as important as the color, but it is also similar to Realism, Symbolism, and Fauvism. Expressionist painters frequently painted natural disasters because they believed the world needed to be destroyed first in order to have a purified society. Besides depicting scenes of destruction, artists often created paintings of alienation, belonging, as well as the search of truth. But, in the 20th century, anti-German ideology was prevalent in society, so German art was not as established as places.

"Once I saw the village butcher slice the neck of a bird and drain the blood out of it. I wanted to cry out, but his joyful expression caught the sound in my throat ... This cry, I always feel it there…When I painted the beef carcass it was still this cry that I wanted to liberate. I have still not succeeded." ~Chaim Soutine

Soutine was the only Expressionist painter in Paris, but he still had a successful career. Throughout his life, Soutine experienced depression, but also had a short temper. His personality is shown through the layers of paint he throws onto the canvas. Along with the use of an excessive amount of paint, Soutine is known for painting still life art. He especially enjoyed focusing on the carcasses of animals, which shows his interest in death. His strange concentration on animals may be due to the lack of food in his childhood or due to food's central role in Jewish ritual. Expressionist artists commonly used exaggerated brushstrokes, which can be seen in this carcass. Soutine's swirling style in this painting also shows his inner emotions. In Carcass of Beef, the beef is harshly cut open, but the style of the painting is very similar to Soutine's inspiration's,  Rembrandt, painting, Slaughtered Ox.

Soutine also had a different way of painting the carcass. He first purchased a piece of beef at a slaughterhouse and hung it in his studio. Every few days, Soutine would ask his assistant to bring him a bucket of fresh cow blood. While painting, Soutine would frequently pour the blood over the carcass to accurately capture the freshness of cut beef. But, his painting didn’t come with consequences. While the assistant fanned away the flies, the neighbors complained about the smell, which led to health inspectors attempting to take away the meat. Soutine was too immersed in his work, so his assistant placated the authorities, which allowed Soutine to finish his masterpiece.

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