MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION 
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)

Le jongleur

MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
Le jongleur
signed, dated and inscribed 'Chagall Marc 1943 N.J.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
43 1⁄2 x 31 in. (110.5 x 78.8 cm.)
Painted in New York in 1943
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Mrs Gilbert W. Chapman (formerly known as Mrs. Charles B. 'Bobsy' Goodspeed), by whom acquired from the above, in 1945.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (no. 52.1005), a gift from the above in 1952; sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 2 November 2005, lot 34.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
L. Venturi, Marc Chagall, New York, 1945, p. 46 (illustrated).
‘Notable Works of Art Now on the Market’, Art News, New York, April 1945, p. 31 (illustrated p. 40).
Art News, vol. XLV, no. 3, New York, May 1946, p. 5 (illustrated on the cover).
‘Chagall, He Paints a World of Charming Fantasy’, in Life Magazine, vol. II, no. 18, New York, 5 May 1947, p. 57 (illustrated).
J.K. Reed, ‘Critic Genauer Climbs Out on That Limb’, in Art Digest, New York, February 1948, p. 12 (illustrated).
E. Genauer, Best of Art, Garden City, 1948, no. 13, p. 43 (illustrated).
R. Maritain, Chagall ou l’Orage Enchanté, Geneva, 1948, p. 152 (illustrated).
‘The Treasury of the Circus’, in Art News Annual, New York, 1950, p. 35 (illustrated).
C. Estienne, Chagall, Paris, 1951, no. 65, n.p. (illustrated pl. 65).
L. Venturi, Chagall, Lausanne, 1956, pp. 91 & 122 (illustrated p. 89).
W. Erben, Marc Chagall, New York, 1957, no. 46, n.p. (illustrated).
J. Grenier, ‘Marc Chagall’ in L’Oeil, Paris, April 1959, no. 5, p. 24 (illustrated).
The Art Institute of Chicago, ed., Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection, Chicago, 1961, p. 75.
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall: Life and Work, London, 1964, no. 455, pp. 443 & 744 (illustrated p. 455).
F. Reust, ed., Le temps dans l’oeuvre de Marc Chagall, Le Locle, 1967, pp. 7 & 27.
Y. Taillandier, ‘Pourquoi tant d’horloges et de poissons volants?’, in XXe Siècle, Paris, June 1970, no. 34, p. 35 (illustrated).
T. Takemoto, Chagall, Tokyo, 1970, no. 45, p. 130 (illustrated).
M. Bucci, Marc Chagall, Florence, 1970, pp. 35, 37 & 95 (illustrated fig. 29, p. 37).
NY Magazine, New York, 6 May 1974.
A. Pieyre de Mandiargues, Chagall, Paris, 1974, no. 42, pp. 73, 80 & 204 (illustrated p. 73; with incorrect provenance).
W. Haftmann, Marc Chagall, New York, 1975, p. 124 (illustrated p. 125; with incorrect dimensions).
A. James Speyer & C. Graham Donnell, Twentieth-Century European Paintings, Chicago, 1980, no. 1D4, p. 36.
R. Storr, ‘For Sale: The Elizabeth Goodspeed Chapman Collection’, in The Connoisseur, vol. 206, no. 828, London, February 1981, p. 134.
F. Le Targat, Marc Chagall, New York, 1985, no. 71, n.p. (illustrated pl. 71).
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Paris, 1995, no. A184.
J. Baal-Teshuva, Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 189 (illustrated).
D. Marchesseau, Chagall, Ivre d’images, Paris, 1995, pp. 93 & 170-171 (illustrated p. 92).
G. Polonsky, Chagall, London, 1998, no. 35, pp. 28 & 100 (illustrated p. 101).
J. Baal-Teshuva, Marc Chagall, Cologne, 1998, p. 155 (illustrated p. 154).
J. Zlotnik Schmidt & R. Bogarad, Legacies: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Nonfiction, California, 2001 (illustrated on the cover).
E.R. Wolfson, Alef, Mem, Tau: Kabbalistic Musings on Time, Truth and Death, Berkeley, 2006 (illustrated on the cover).
J. Baal-Teshuva, Marc Chagall, Cologne, 2008, p. 155 (illustrated p. 154).
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Marc Chagall: Paintings, Gouaches, November 1943, no. 6.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Marc Chagall, April - June 1946, no. 53, p. 88; this exhibition later travelled to Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Marc Chagall: Paintings, Prints and Drawings, November 1946 - January 1947.
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Marc Chagall, Recent Paintings, Gouaches for A Thousand and One Nights, April 1947.
Paris, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Marc Chagall, Peintures 1908-1947, October - December 1947, no. 47, n.p.; this exhibition later travelled to Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Chagall, December 1947 - January 1948, no. 45, p. 14.
London, Tate Gallery, Marc Chagall: An Exhibition of Paintings, Prints, Book Illustrations and Theatre Designs, 1908-1947, February 1948, no. 53, p. 8.
Chicago, Arts Club, Marc Chagall, 1965.
Paris, Grand Palais, Hommage à Marc Chagall, December 1969 - March 1970, no. 91, p. 7 (illustrated p. 118; with incorrect dimensions).
Saint-Paul, Fondation Maeght, Marc Chagall: Rétrospective de l’oeuvre peint, July - October 1984, no. 45, p. 92 (illustrated on the cover; illustrated again p. 93).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Marc Chagall, November 1984 - February 1985, no. 53, n.p. (illustrated n.p.).
Tokyo, Bunkamura Fine Arts Museum, Chagall, October - November 1989, no. 91, pp. 134 & 208 (illustrated p. 135); this exhibition later travelled to Ibraki, Kasama Nichido Museum, December 1989 - January 1990; and Nagoya, Nagoya City Art Museum, January - March 1990.
New York, The Jewish Museum, Chagall: Love, War, and Exile, September 2013 - February 2014, p. 65 (illustrated).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice. Christie’s has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie’s has guaranteed to the seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee.
Further details
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Brought to you by

Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

The Russian avant-garde painter Marc Chagall and his beloved wife Bella left their home in France in 1941, fleeing the increasing violence of World War II. Alfred H. Barr Jr., the director of the Museum of Modern Art, had invited Chagall to the United States to stage a solo exhibition at the museum – enabling the Jewish artist and his wife to obtain visas and find safe refuge in New York City. It was there, two years later, that Chagall painted Le jongleur, a large, boldly-coloured oil on canvas depicting a circus ring, filled with acrobatic performers as well as deeply personal symbols of the artist’s own life.

Chagall was no stranger to foreign exile, having left his native Russia in 1923. In the nearly two decades he spent in France thereafter, Chagall became a prominent member of the Ecole de Paris, befriending the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard and the painters Sonia and Robert Delaunay. Chagall was among the great wave of European modernists who migrated to New York City during the Second World War, escaping the conflict alongside Salvador Dalí, Fernand Léger and Piet Mondrian. These artists all found new inspiration in the electric energy they encountered in the bustling American metropolis, and Chagall felt particularly at home in the Lower East Side, amongst the Jewish immigrant community that lived there. The paintings that he produced during this period are often coloured by the contrasting emotions the artist was experiencing in his escape, reflecting both the loss and alienation of his forced exile from Europe and the profound grief in response to the tragedy of World War II and the Holocaust, as well as more joyful expressions of hope, love and pleasure, as in Le jongleur.

Le jongleur was acquired in 1945, two years after its execution, from Chagall’s New York dealer Pierre Matisse by the esteemed Chicago collector and philanthropist Elizabeth Goodspeed (née Fuller and later Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman). Mrs. Goodspeed, known affectionately as Bobsy, was a prominent figure in the Chicago art world. As a young woman, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and traveled widely with her husband Charles Goodspeed, the son of a steel industrialist from Ohio. Mrs. Goodspeed later served as president of the Arts Club of Chicago from 1932 to 1940, a pivotal period within the institution’s history, and maintained an expansive social circle of fellow collectors, philosophers, writers, artists and composers.

Mrs. Goodspeed was among the most important American collectors in the mid-twentieth century. She displayed her prestigious modern art collection in her elegant Lincoln Park apartment, overlooking Lake Michigan. This exceptional group of paintings featured several works by Chagall, including the present composition and The Circus Rider, painted circa 1927both of which she later gifted to the Art Institute of Chicago. Among Mrs. Goodspeed’s other generous donations to the Art Institute were Pablo Picasso’s 1910 portrait of the German dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler – an iconic work of Analytical Cubism – and a 1914 still life collage by Georges Braque, both of which were given to the museum in memory of her first husband, Charles, who died in 1947.

Mrs. Goodspeed’s refined avant-garde taste was no doubt influenced by her enduring friendship with the matriarch of modernism, Gertrude Stein. In Paris in the first decades of the twentieth century, Stein had cultivated a rich network of American expatriate authors, including Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as international artists – Braque, Henri Matisse and Picasso among them. Stein famously posed for a proto-Cubist portrait by Picasso in 1905-1906 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which perfectly captured her sharp intellect and magnetic presence. Stein and her longtime partner, the American writer Alice B. Toklas, commenced a tour of America in 1934, during which they visited Chicago three times. There, they were frequently hosted by Mrs. Goodspeed, who introduced them to her own creative coterie. Goodspeed continued to correspond intimately with Stein until her death in 1946, and she maintained a long-distance friendship with Toklas thereafter.

Mrs. Goodspeed purchased Chagall’s Le jongleur from the Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1945, who had taken the work on consignment from Chagall in July of the year it was painted. Once she acquired the work for her own collection, Mrs. Goodspeed lent Le jongleur to several major monographic exhibitions in both the United States and Europe – including important installations at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musée national d’art moderne in Paris, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Tate Gallery in London. 

Le jongleur is a rich, polychromatic vision of a circus, painted with bold primary and jewel-toned secondary colours. Chagall’s juggler is winged and bears the head of a rooster; he wears a brightly coloured costume of green, blue and yellow. His body dominates the composition, towering above the red circus ring, balletic horse rider and audience members below. The acrobatic juggler stands on one leg, the other leg thrust vertically into the air, a familiar pose from the Art Institute’s The Circus Rider, in which a flamboyantly-dressed acrobat performs the same balletic gesture while balancing on the back of a saddled horse.

Throughout Le jongleur, Chagall painted a series of recurring motifs derived from his own dream-like visual lexicon: a bearded violinist, a ballerina wearing a white bridal veil, and a shrouded, bare-breasted woman embracing a horse. These elements of the artist’s personal iconography variously invoke his childhood in Vitebsk, the Russian-Jewish folk tradition, and his enduring romance with Bella, whom he had married in 1915. Perhaps the most elusive symbol in the composition is that of the clock, balanced over the juggler’s outstretched arm. For Victoria Charles, the clock in Le jongleur functions not as a Surrealist symbol of time, but rather ‘a particular, Chagallian, kind of phantasmagoria’ (Marc Chagall, New York, 2005, p. 82).

The modern spectacle of the circus – with its dazzling array of electric lights, daring performers, colourful costumes and exotic animals – was certainly a popular subject for modern artists throughout the twentieth century, inspiring the dynamic pointillist paintings of Georges Seurat, the melancholy saltimbanques of Picasso, and the colourful, tubular abstractions of Fernand Léger. Chagall himself had encountered traveling troupes of acrobats while growing up in Vitebsk and later frequented the Cirque d’hiver in Paris with Vollard. Throughout his life, he remained ‘enthralled by the blend of dance, theatre, music and language’ of the circus (I.F. Walther and R. Metzger, Marc Chagall: Painting as Poetry, Cologne, 2000, p. 57). As Lionello Venturi observed of Chagall’s circus pictures of the 1930s and 1940s, in particular: ‘These circus scenes are mature realizations of earlier dreams’ (Marc Chagall, New York, 1945, p. 39).

Chagall returned to the theme of the circus repeatedly throughout his career. The artist would later summarise his wonder at the poetry and theatricality of the circus, as well as his deep empathy for circus performers, in a 1981 Pierre Matisse exhibition catalogue: ‘It is a magic word, circus, a timeless dancing game where tears and smiles, the play of arms and legs take the form of a great art. But what do most of these circus people earn? A piece of bread. Night brings them solitude, sadness. Until the next day when the evening flooded with electric lights announces a new old-life. The circus seems to me like the most tragic show on earth. Through the centuries, it [the circus] has been the most poignant cry in a man's search for amusement and joy. It often takes the form of high poetry. I seem to see a Don Quixote in search of an ideal, like an inspired clown who wept and dreamed of human love. I would like to go up to that bareback rider who has just reappeared, smiling; her dress, a bouquet of flowers. I would circle her with my flowered and unflowered years. On my knees, I would tell her wishes and dreams, not of this world. I would run after her to ask her how to live, how to escape from myself, from the world, whom to run to, where to go. I have always thought of clowns, acrobats and actors as tragically human, who, for me, are like characters in certain religious paintings’ (quoted in Marc Chagall, Le Cirque: Paintings, 1969-1980, exh. cat., New York, 1981).

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