I should confess immediately that I was skeptical when I first heard about “Soutine / de Kooning: Conversations in Paint,” at the Barnes Foundation, an exhibition described as “exploring affinities between the work of Chaïm Soutine and Willem de Kooning.”1 It was inevitable, I thought, that the show would follow an entirely one-sided conversation. I was aware that de Kooning had expressed his admiration for Soutine, but Soutine (1893–1943)—who was born in the Minsk region of Russia (now Belarus), came to Paris at twenty, and spent the rest of his short life in France—was surely unaware of the work of de Kooning (1904–97), unaware even of his existence....


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