François Barraud | La Tailleuse de Soupe | Rustic Onion Soup

 François Barraud | La Tailleuse de Soupe

In "La Tailleuse de Soupe," a painting from 1933 by François Barraud, we witness a scene imbued with mystery and a touch of surrealism, both characteristics that pervade many of Barraud's works. The title originates from the French verb "tailler" which means "to cut" or "to carve".

This painting captures an intriguing domestic moment. A young girl, adorned with a large orange ribbon, sits at a table where a large steaming tureen of soup sits. She gazes at the viewer with a somewhat sullen expression, while across from her, her mother, seemingly in a cheerful mood, cuts slices of bread with a distinct smile.

The narrative preceding this scene remains unknown. We're left to speculate what might have led to the young girl's mood, her refusal to watch the near-dismemberment of the loaf of bread that her mother enthusiastically carves into thin slices, presumably to accompany the hot soup soon to be ladled onto the plates.

The woman playing the mother's role recurs in several of Barraud's paintings and is likely Marie, his wife. She's depicted alongside Barraud in numerous scenes, ranging from him painting a nude under her watchful eye to intimate moments of her affectionately stroking his hair while he examines some stamps.

As for the young girl, her story remains untold. Her gaze is reminiscent of those young girls on the cusp of adolescence, often captured by French artist Balthus. His work featuring such subjects was exhibited at the "Gallerie Pierre" in Paris in 1934, the very same year that Barraud, unfortunately, passed away at a young age.



François Barraud (1899–1934) was a Swiss painter associated with the New Objectivity movement, which emerged in the 1920s in Germany as a counter-movement to expressionism. The artists associated with New Objectivity sought to depict the world in an objective, often stark and unemotional way, focusing on the mundane or unattractive aspects of life.

Born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Barraud came from a family of artists - his three brothers, Aimé, Aurèle, and Charles, were also painters. After an apprenticeship as an enamel painter at a local watch factory, François moved to Geneva, where he studied at the School of Fine Arts.

Despite the early death of François Barraud at the age of 34, he left behind a significant body of work. His paintings are characterized by a meticulous approach to depicting everyday scenes and objects with a high degree of realism. His work often contains a sense of melancholy and solitude, and his subjects are typically portrayed in a restrained and somewhat detached manner. His palette is often subdued, with a careful attention to light and shadow.


Recipe: Rustic Onion Soup

In the early 20th century, food was not as readily available as it is today, especially in times of economic hardship. People often made do with what they had and relied on simple, nourishing dishes. Onion soup, a dish made of simple and affordable ingredients, would have been a common meal for many households. The onions can be slowly cooked to bring out their natural sweetness, and combined with broth, wine, and bread, they create a filling and comforting dish.
The Swiss version of the dish is known as Zwiebelsuppe. This Swiss variant is typically less rich and does not include the gratinéed topping that characterizes the French version.


  • 6 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 loaf of fresh bread


  1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 25-30 minutes, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown.

  2. Add the minced garlic to the pot and cook for another minute.

  3. Increase the heat to medium-high. Pour in the white wine and stir to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom.

  4. Add the beef broth, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer and let it cook for about 20 minutes.

  5. While the soup is simmering, tear your fresh bread into small, bite-sized pieces.

  6. After 20 minutes, remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs from the soup.

  7. To serve, place a handful of torn bread pieces into each bowl. Ladle the hot soup over the bread, ensuring that the bread is soaked with the soup.

Additional information

French onion soup, in particular, has been a classic dish in France for centuries. It became popular in the 18th century, thanks to Stanislas Leszczynski, the Duke of Lorraine and former King of Poland, who lived in France. The Duke enjoyed the local onion soup and thought to add a gratinéed topping (grated cheese and breadcrumbs browned under a broiler) to enrich the dish. This version of the soup became popular and is the one most commonly known today.


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