Have a good look at these girls: both have the same age, dark hair, blue eyes, both wear similar light-coloured dresses, they hold their hands in the same way… But are not they the exact opposite of each other?
The girl in blue dress is polite and timid (stop staring at her! she is blushing!), she is kind, she is well brought up, she is the nicest possible child, almost an angel.
But the girl in pink is nothing like her. By the way she glances at you from the corner of her eyes you can tell that she is not a child any more. She is trouble. The life has not been good for her, and she wants to take what she thinks is hers. Don’t trust her, do not let her stay in your house because she will cut your throat and run off with all your money!
It was told that, whatever is the subject of the artwork, the artist always represents himself. It appears to be very true in this case: the Little Girl in Blue was painted by Amadeo Modigliani, and the Girl in Pink Dress was painted by Chaim Soutine…
Amadeo Modigliani was an Italian Jew from the family of merchants and scholars; despite his constant poverty and bohemian antics, he was very generous, and very much of a gentlemen. Chaim Soutine was a Belarusian Jew, the 10th out of 11 children; he suffered not only from extreme poverty, but also from pogroms; his manners were worse than appalling. He was 9 years Modigliani’s junior. When he arrived in Paris, Modigliani, who had been living there for 7 years, took him under his wing, and introduced him to the art dealers. Some were saying that the handsome Italian taught the poor Jewish villager to blow his nose with a handkerchief instead of his fingers, and to clean his nails... Many years later, after Soutine became rich and famous, when asked about Modigliani, he told something like “Don’t speak with me of this drug addict! He has almost turned me into an alcoholic!”… I do not know whether the Girl in Pink (1928) was painted as a direct response to the Girl in Blue (1918), but, given how similar they are, it is probably the case. If so, perhaps it means that Soutine has never forgiven Modigliani for his kindness and wanted to avenge him even though he died in 1920 (he was only 35!), 8 years before the Girl in Pink has appeared.
Many years after Soutine himself died, their paintings are exhibited together and show different the men who painted them were. I have met these young ladies, along with over a hundred remarkable paintings, in Rome, while visiting “Modigliani, Soutine and the accursed artists. The Netter collection” exhibition in Rome. And, while it is true that this collection is much more than just Modigliani and Soutine, it was their story that I had been the most impressed by.
- The whole exhibition as seen by La Fée Culturelle (in French): blog post.
- Further reading on Netter Collection: exhibition catalogues.
- I could not find the source of Soutine’s quote on Internet, so the quote is not exact. It was mentioned on the exhibtion audioguide.