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Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Village noir au ciel rouge

Details
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Village noir au ciel rouge
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower right)
oil and India ink on canvas
29 1/2 x 25 1/4 in. (75 x 64 cm.)
Painted in 1951
Provenance
Marcel Kapferer, Paris, 1952-1955.
Galerie Änne Abels, Cologne, by 1956.
Acquired from the above in 1956, and thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, New York, 1964, no. 841, pp. 502 & 760 (illustrated n.p.).
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill

Lot Essay

The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Painted shortly after Chagall’s return to France from his war-time exile in New York, Le monde rouge et noir represents the simultaneous pull of both the past and the present on the artist’s creative vision during the early 1950s. Focusing on a traditional still-life subject, in which a large bouquet of freshly cut flowers towers over a typical lunchtime tableau, the artist lends the scene a unique, Chagallian air as the surface on which the still-life sits suddenly gives way to the winding streets of a small village. Reminiscent of the townscape of Vitebsk, where the artist was born and spent his youth, the houses crowd together on a gently sloping hill as a small pony and trap soars above their roofs, the luminous shade of blue of the animal adding to the surreality of its presence. Framed by a bold arch of bright fiery orange that suggests the glow of a setting sun, the village scene remains bathed in dark shadows, the apparent lack of life on its streets imbuing the painting with a strange, almost forboding, atmosphere. With its dreamlike combination of the tangible, sensuous world of the still-life in the foreground and the vision of Vitebsk behind it, the painting reveals the principal concerns that filled Chagall’s internal musings during this period – the beautiful reality of his new life in France, and the memories of the life he had left behind him in Russia many years before.

In January 1949 Chagall travelled to the exclusive Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, on the invitation of his close friend, the Greek-born art critic, publisher and patron Tériade. Like Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and Bonnard before him, he found the Mediterranean an irresistibly stimulating environment in which to live and work. Indeed, his companion, Virginia Haggard McNeil, later recalled that their arrival in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat resulted in an outpouring of creativity from the artist: ‘An explosion of new ideas was suddenly released at the sight of the Mediterranean … His store of ‘Chagall’ material was jolted and injected with new substance, producing a series of variations around the theme … the sea, the boats and flowers of St. Jean tumbled out in exultant succession…’ (V. Haggard McNeill, My Life with Chagall, New York, 1986, pp. 89-90). Renting rooms in a pension de famille, Chagall rejoiced in the golden sunlight and serenity of the southern coast, beginning a series of gouaches infused with a rich aquamarine blue that powerfully evoke the dazzling colours of the Mediterranean Sea. He visited Tériade often at his grand villa, and the publisher was a generous and eager host, treating the artist and his family to lavish dinners and champagne served under the orange trees that surrounded the property. Chagall would spend the next four months happily ensconced at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, and his experiences of the sea, the light, and the pleasures of life on the Midi, encouraged the artist to move there permanently in 1950, purchasing a grand, belle époque villa named Les Collines in the nearby town of Vence.

It was here, surrounded by the lush foliage, sparkling light and fecundity of the landscape, that the artist found his art reinvigorated, the beauty of Vence providing a seemingly endless supply of creative inspiration. Photographs taken shortly after the move show the artist standing on a balcony overlooking the landscape surrounding Les Collines, his attention completely absorbed in sketching the view. While Chagall’s renewed contact with the French countryside had encouraged him to begin painting still lifes once again, the subject took on a greater prominence at Vence, with grand vases of vibrant blossoms and plates of ripe fruit, lit with the rich sunshine of the Midi, frequently occupying the central focus of his compositions. With their colourful blooms and verdant foliage, executed in a heavy impasto, the flowers in Le monde rouge et noir appear ready to spill over the edges of their vase, their blossoms a riotous explosion of bright colour and dynamic brushwork. Chagall most likely drew the inspiration for these blossoms straight from life, as bouquets of freshly cut flowers were brought daily to his studio during these years, filling the space with their vibrant hues and heady scent. Indeed, the whole tableau in the foreground appears plucked from the everyday rituals of life in Vence, its small cluster of objects most likely a familiar sight during mealtimes at the villa.

However, despite the idyllic location and serene way of life in the South of France, Chagall’s mind remained firmly rooted in the past. Throughout much of Chagall’s exile in New York during the Second World War he had desperately sought to reconnect with the world he had left behind in Russia, a desire which resulted in a flurry of compositions that directly reference the rural shtetl in which he had grown up. It is possible that the powerful emotions Chagall felt upon his return to France in 1948 may have accentuated his longing for another homecoming, to the winding streets and rustic village of his youth, drawing memories of Vitebsk to the surface once again. Indeed, writing to his close friend Joseph Opatoshu shortly after his arrival in France, Chagall described the power Vitebsk still held over him ‘I myself cannot get out of Vitebsk…,’ (Chagall, quoted in J. Wullschlager, Chagall: Love and Exile, London, 2008, p. 451). His memories of the village, now destroyed by the war, continued to infiltrate his work, their romanticised visions of a traditional way of life mythologised by time and distance. In the present composition, the tangible world of the still life and the mysterious, otherworldly village occupy the same space, perhaps a reflection of the manner in which Chagall’s experiences of past and present coexisted in his mind.

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