By a nice piece of programming serendipity, Soutine and Modigliani, two key figures (and close friends) in that group of Ecole de Paris painters once romantically known as ‘les peintres maudits’ (cursed) that emerged during the First World War, are both currently enjoying longoverdue museum shows, at the Courtauld Institute and Tate Modern respectively. That label, a reference to the trials and racketiness of their outer lives, of poverty and illness, drink and drugs, that both artists suffered in the course of their comparatively brief careers (not to mention their own inner creative doubts and uncertainties) – has created the image of a 20th century ‘la vie boheme’ of sorts – and proved catnip, of course, to Hollywood film producers, with artists starvingin filthy garrets before final discovery et al. In Soutine’s case however they were not far from reality, the story of the American millionaire-collector Dr Albert C Barnes’ arrival in his studio in 1923 and the purchase on the spot of some 50 pieces, really beingthe stuff of legend. It is a sense reinforced by the intensely expressionistic character of the work itself – Soutine is always really strongstuff emotionally – and the curators of the Courtauld show have shown huge intelligence in what and how much to show, viz just 30 or so of his figure paintings, those pastry cooks, page boys, valets-de- chambre and acolytes that serviced the ‘glamour’ of Paris. That may leave out his visceral landscapes and coruscating, decomposingcarcases of oxen and poultry but, in return, it focuses attention even more closely on Soutine’s remarkable methods. The intense, controlled palettes – in these figure pieces predominately blue and white, scarlet and black that are a reflection of their workinguniforms – and the various exaggerations and distortions of individual features, end up communicatinga fierce, unexpected tenderness. In the process Soutine seems, to give the most extraordinary insights into the psychological fates of his sitters – they almost leap from the canvas and tell you their story. Modigliani’s story is even more extraordinary, all those iconic portraits and nudes that seem to indicate a lengthy working life beingcompressed into just 14 years of tuberculosis, drugs, drink and poverty, not to mention an abandoned career as a sculptor. The Tate Modern show meanwhile, is a full on retrospective, with some 12 of the great nudes that attracted police censorship in 1917 and a substantial display of his African-influenced stone carved heads alongside a generous display of his portraits of friends and supporters – Brancusi and Picasso amongthem. Awkward and graceful at the same time, these figures and faces reach back visually to the delicate linearity of the Sienese masters of the 14th century while retaininga contemporaneity of feelingthat still speaks with a clarity of emotion today. While at first sight the vibrant, punky New York music and arts scene of the late 70s might represent a very different order of creative endeavour to that of Paris between the wars, the more you look at it the closer the parallels seem to become. The first great artistic floweringof the New York scene – Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Post-Painterly Abstraction – had come and gone, superceded by the cool Minimalism and Conceptualism of the early 70s, but that was more an intellectual art of the museums and galleries. The burgeoning underground music scene of the urban young and the subversive influence of Warhol’s Factory was begging for a vibrant visual ‘voice’ and, in the desperately short lived yet astonishingly prolific career of the youngblack artist Basquiat, it found the perfect expression. His reputation has always been a very American thinghowever – he is an intensely mythologised figure in that culture and fetches 8 GALLERIES JAUNUARY 2018 rt public galleries ‘. . . artists starving in filthy garrets before discovery’ What’s on at London’s public spaces as the New Year rolls out . . .