Naked Soul: Chaïm Soutine and Israeli Art – Chaim Atar

Naked Soul: Chaïm Soutine and Israeli Art – Chaim Atar

Curators: Suria Sadekova, Batsheva Goldman-Ida, PhD, Yaniv Shapira

Chaim Atar

Chaim Atar’s sojourns in Paris in 1933 and in 1937–38 have had a crucial impact on the formation of his painterly language. During these visits he met with many members of the Jewish École de Paris and was exposed, first hand, to the work of great masters, including Rembrandt, Cézanne, and van Gogh. Most of all, however, it was Chaïm Soutine’s direct, intuitive, forthright painting that left the profoundest impression on Atar, and the juxtaposition of their work in the current exhibition sheds a new light on Atar’s work.
Atar did not address everyday life or social issues, and shunned away from landscape painting. He regarded the portrait as an intimate expression of the individual’s deliberations and devoted himself primarily to portraiture in which he strove to reflect the human soul and his stormy inner world. His models were fellow kibbutz members and the children of Ein Harod, his wife and son, who are depicted as if they were extracted from another time and place, taking us back to Zlatopol, the Jewish shtetl in which he grew up. In the mid-1950s Atar also engaged in still life painting of flowers, as a reflection of his restless soul: “Penetrating the lush tones of the flowers and their special fragrance,” he said, “is like an attempt to master the painterly depiction of the human figure.” The meat and slaughtered fowl paintings, which he also began painting at the time inspired by Soutine’s well known, blood curdling series, became his most enigmatic, revealing works. The exhibition unfolds Atar’s painterly oeuvre as an organic unit which weaves memories of the past with a vision of the future into one. His featured works attest to increased openness and freedom over time.