This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Comité Chagall.
Chagall and his family spent the winter of 1927-1928 in the charming town of Chamonix in Savoy. He was very fond of the mountainous landscapes of the French Alps, so different from the flat steppes of his native land, yet so atmospherically close to the Russian rural landscapes of Vitebsk and its surroundings. During this short period, Chagall executed many works in which he incorporated these mountainous landscapes within a window-frame. The open window was one of the artist's favourite compositional devices, frequently used in his paintings of 1927-1930, which became a leit motiv throughout his oeuvre. Les amants à la fenêtre ouverte, an early example from this series of open-window works, is unique in terms of composition, subject matter and colours.
The delicate muted tones of Les amants à la fenêtre ouverte recall Chagall's palette of his early Vitebsk works, which were to re-emerge in his landscapes of the French Alps of the late 1920s. The milky subtle tone enveloping the two figures in the present gouache blurs the view outside the window, which is a departure from the very naturalistic backgrounds of his Peyra-Cava works, as exemplified in La chaise rose (fig. 1). Although Chagall's use of the open window usually alludes to a clear partition between the exterior world and the artist's inner space, in Les amants à la fenêtre ouverte, the case is different. Chagall draws us directly into his dreamy intimate world, just as the young man with Chagall's own features in the drawing, is led into the interior by a floating female figure wearing a bright red dress. She acts as the artist's beacon into his inner space of artistic freedom and romantic love, holding a flower bouquet flickering with rich colours, which the male figure celebrates by raising his arms.
In this work, the two lovers anticipate the swooning couple in The Pink Chair, which, in Chagall's world, refers to the artist's true love shared with his wife Bella. In contrast with his 1928 series of luscious flower paintings, the bouquet in Les amants à la fenêtre ouverte appears almost immaterial, defined only by a few vibrant dabs of paint, corroborating the dreamy atmosphere of the scene. Chagall thus praises his eternal love for Bella, which Virginia Haggard, the artist's lover after Bella's death, describes: 'he believed that [Bella's] spirit lived on somewhere and was watching over us' (V. Haggard, My Life with Chagall, New York, 1986, p. 57). In Les amants à la fenêtre, Chagall overcomes the difficulty of visually transcribing his love for Bella by restraining his palette and simplifying the composition in order to load the drawing with an intense emotion, prompting Virginia Haggard to observe during her relationship with Chagall, that 'by nature, Marc was shy and undemonstrative in love. More and more, his tenderness seemed to be expressed in creation. He talked a lot about love in general, he painted love, but he didn't practice it' (V. Haggard, p. 154). Les amants à la fenêtre ouverte is extraordinary in that Chagall not only succeeds in 'painting love', but he also reveals that he 'dreams of love with open eyes' (L. Venturi, quoted in F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1963, p. 381).
(fig. 1) Marc Chagall, La chaise rose, 1930. Private collection. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2008.