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Soutine's Carcass of Beef: Is it any good?

Carcass of Beef<br />
Chaim Soutine<br />
1925<br />
Oil on canvas<br />
Europe, Russia
Carcass of Beef, Chaim Soutine, 1925, Oil on canvas Europe, Russia

Referencing the script from the movie Mona Lisa Smile, Julia Roberts character asks her art history class if Soutine’s Carcass of Beef painting is any good. This seemingly grotesque art creates confusion regarding how these types of paintings make it into art history books and museums.

When viewing any art, especially modern art, the observer must ask themselves, what is the artist’s intent? Abstract expressionism, which is the art movement Soutine practices, is characterized by presenting the world by vividly transmitting personal moods and ideas through the emphasis on line, color, shape, and texture. Soutine’s Carcass of Beef, like most modern art, strips away any pretense of traditional artistic beauty and instead creates a visceral work that reveals pure moments of brutal honesty.

Rembrandt-Carcass of BeefInspired by Rembrandt’s Carcass, Soutine uses similar themes of Christian imagery in combination with his life experiences. While Rembrandt’s Carcass has been likened to the crucifixion of Christ through his use of warm colors and the imagery of the legs of the carcass spread like arms affixed to a cross hanging in a darkened room, Soutine’s raw expressionism is the opposition of Renaissance art where martyrs are pictured with little or no expression as they suffer his interpretation is turbulent and can be seen as metaphysical.

Soutine’s subject is a direct rebellion against his Jewish background, yet it reflects the intense emotional fervor that is characteristic of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe. The act of being an artist defies Jewish law as well as the imagery of the carcass, according to dietary laws. The paintings glowing colors and tragic subject can be equated to a scene of martyrdom, in stained glass.

For us lucky Minnesotans, the Minneapolis Institute of Art is the home to one of the Soutine Carcass paintings, stop by and take a look. Admission is free every day, donations are appreciated. Don’t forget about Third Thursdays 6-9pm.

Tuesday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Monday Closed




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