The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Chagall painted L'Ecolier during a period of unequaled contentment in his long life. In September 1923, nearly a decade after the outbreak of war had interrupted his youthful first stay in Paris, the artist left Russia with his wife Bella and their daughter Ida and returned to the French capital, which bubbled with life in this peaceful decade preceding the Depression. Quickly falling in with a cosmopolitan, erudite circle of companions—the painters Robert and Sonia Delaunay, the publisher Florent Fels, and the poets Ivan and Claire Goll and Joseph Delteil, to name a few—Chagall participated avidly in the social and cultural milieu of the city. During his first stay in France in 1910-1914, he had rarely ventured beyond Paris; now, he took every opportunity to travel into the provinces, immersing himself in the gentle light and varied terrain of France.
Between 1924 and 1926, the depiction of idyllic corners of the countryside became a favorite theme. The attraction to rural motifs explains Chagall’s decision to rent two rooms in Montchauvet, a small village in the hilly countryside dotted with small woods, a small church, some small houses on the only main street, and farmyards all about. In contrast to the continually evolving avant-garde Paris, Montchauvet was stable and impervious to the cultural fluctuations of modernity, which gave Chagall great solace. Reminiscences of Vitebsk, seen through the eyes of the French countryside, were inevitable.
L'Ecolier, painted in 1925 during one of the artist’s stays in Montchauvet, combines this rural simplicity with the idiosyncratic and magical sense of myth and wonder which is distinctive to Chagall’s work. The handling is painterly, vivid and spontaneous, mimicking the delicate airiness of the figure, who floats suspended in the air, absorbed in a book and seemingly unaware of the bird resting on his head. “It was in French landscapes, paintings of flowers, and a few portraits that his art advanced in these years,” Jackie Wullschlager has written. “All speak of a new harmony with and interest in nature. Whereas in the first Paris period, his art had been metaphysical and passionate, the yearning expression of visionary youth, in this second French phase Chagall opened out to the world and the French countryside. He found the courage to express himself in a new idiom; away from ravaged Russia and its insistence on ideological positions, he was able to concentrate on painterly values” (Chagall: A Biography, New York, 2008, p. 321).