Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Le peintre

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Le peintre
stamped 'MArc chagall' (lower right)
oil on canvas
13 x 7 5/8 in. (33 x 19.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1948-1950
The artist’s estate.
Paul Lombard, Paris; his sale, Artcurial, Paris, 10 October 2017, lot. 67.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
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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Ottavia Marchitelli
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Lot Essay

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

Throughout the course of his long and devoted artistic career, Chagall painted a number of self-portraits, providing a revealing insight into his developing sense of artistic and personal identity. When Chagall paints himself into compositions as Le peintre, he disrupts the picture in the evidence of its own creation, and as such the artist becomes the magician where all else may indeed be an illusion, a dream, a vision. These self-portrait compositions progressively came to employ more motifs from Chagall’s personal repertoire surrounding the artist. As such, the self-portraits in which Chagall depicts solely himself are rare in his late work, more frequent in the early years whereupon he was grappling with how to represent his artistic identity.

The present work, dating from 1948-1950 comes at a time of great fame for the artist. His work had been shown worldwide in the most prominent institutions, with grand retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée d’Art Nationale in Paris, the Tate in London and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. Furthermore, he had been given his own room in the French Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1948. It was also a time in the wake of Chagall’s recovery from great tragedy, having endured two World Wars, devastation in his homeland and a great personal loss. Chagall and his first and most beloved wife Bella Rosenfeld had fled to America in 1941 in an attempt to ensure their safety, however the War would indirectly claim Bella’s life from a viral infection in 1944. Although Chagall began a new relationship with Virginia Haggard, with whom he had a son in 1946, he never stopped painting and thinking about Bella.

What is revealing about the present self-portrait by comparison with others featuring the artist from around this time, is the removal of the dreamscape. Le peintre focuses on the artist alone at his easel, whilst most works during this time reside within the context of other motifs. The present work removes all external reference points, providing a solitary existentialist view of the artist which mirrors a work from 1914 as he was coming into his stride and defining himself, Autoportrait au chevalet (Meyer 159). This recreation of an earlier composition suggests that Chagall was potentially redefining himself in a new age, upon his return to France in a Europe that was at once familiar, yet which had irrevocably changed. There could be derived a symbolic coincidence orientation of the painter in Le peintre where he faces left, looking backwards towards the past, rather than right, facing forward to the future, as in Autoportrait au chevalet that exudes his youthful determination. Yet the red smile of the painter in the present version indicates a calm satisfaction, a self-assuredness within the blues and reds of his dominant palette that root him firmly in his unchanged and distinctive chromatic power, recently revealed and stated to the world.

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