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Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

L'idylle en bleu

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
L'idylle en bleu
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower right); signed again 'Marc Chagall' (on the reverse)
oil and tempera on canvas
32 x 25 ½ in. (81.3 x 64.9 cm.)
Painted in 1979
Seibu collection, Tokyo.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, circa 1985.
Tokyo, Bunkamura Museum of Art; Ibaraki, Kasama Nichido Museum of Art and Nagoya City Art Museum, Chagall, October 1989-March 1990, p. 159, no. 113 (illustrated in color).

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Brooke Lampley
Brooke Lampley

Lot Essay

The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

This poetic vision of boundless joy and enchantment–aptly titled L’idylle en bleu–is a veritable compendium of Chagall’s most beloved and enduring themes, painted with inexhaustibly youthful vigor during the last years of his long life. In the lower left, two young lovers chastely embrace. The arcs of their bodies unite to form a single, indivisible orb–a heavenly body, like the setting sun or rising moon that glows red in the dark sky above them. Anchored within the diminutive townscape at the base of the canvas, the couple is simultaneously part of this world and beyond it, their love an ideal union of the sensual and the spiritual, of human yearning and divine mystery. Their joy is embodied in the music of the fiddler, the miraculous soaring flight of the white hen (in reality, a most earth-bound bird) and partially visible angel, and above all, the great bouquet of flowers that bursts forth against the blue ground like a pyrotechnic display.
Flowers were an integral part Chagall’s life-affirming vision of the world, in which these colorful splendors of nature actually seem larger, more brilliant, and even more vital than they do in real life. Particularly in his late years, Chagall painted flowers with utter abandon, as if they were earthly matter transformed into pure energy, emitting their own light. He had first created an extended series of floral still-lifes in the late 1920s, during his travels around central and southern France, in the Midi, the Auvergne, and Savoy. It was in this way, by studying and painting the resident flora of the local countryside, that the artist most intimately acquainted himself with the beauties and charm of la belle France. Following tours of Greece in 1952 and 1954, Chagall was again drawn to flowers. “Never has his world been so bright, so radiant with joy,” Franz Meyer wrote about the work of the ensuing years (Marc Chagall: Life and Work, New York, 1964, p. 552). Yet there was much more to come–another quarter century in which Chagall continued to travel and paint, ceaselessly renewing and re-inventing his favorite themes.
In the dream-like Idylle en bleu, the bouquet of pink and white blossoms–most likely peonies, which announce spring at its very height–seems to rest lightly on the roofs of the little village, whimsically subverting the artistic tradition of the tabletop still-life. Rendered with a delicate touch and myriad hues, the flowers have a bright, effervescent immediacy that contrasts with the all-pervasive blue tonality of the background, from which forms only gradually emerge. The blossoms explode upward and outward from a golden vase, the rounded shape of which echoes the enfolded contours of the affianced pair. “The conjunction is one that particularly appealed to Chagall, a bouquet of cut flowers being the archetypal gift for a lover to bring,” Susan Compton has written. “Yet cut flowers are ephemeral: through man’s artifice their beauty is arranged momentarily. So in these themes the artist reminds us of the impermanence as well as the ecstasy of human love” (Chagall, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 212).

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