Soutine grew up poor in a small Lithuanian town and continued to struggle as a starving artist in Paris. His years of deprivation gave him stomach ulcers, so he abstained from meat and other rich foods. Beginning to achieve success as an artist, he found himself, ironically, buying meat — but not to eat. He expressed his ambivalent relationship to food through paintings of butchered animals.
Carcass of Beef shows the influence of Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox, a painting of an ox carcass strung up in a slaughterhouse. Soutine bought a steer’s carcass and put it up in his studio. As it rotted, his neighbors noticed the smell and called the health authorities, who suggested he inject the carcass with formaldehyde. He did so, but as the flesh dried it lost its vivid color. To solve the problem, Soutine bought blood from the slaughterhouse and applied it to the carcass.
(Text courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, CC BY 3.0.)