MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
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This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When au… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT COLLECTION
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)

Le bouquet de lilas

Details
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
Le bouquet de lilas
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower right); signed again 'Marc Chagall' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
81 x 100.3 cm. (31 7⁄8 x 39 1⁄2 in.)
Painted in 1968
Provenance
Galerie Maeght, Paris
Private collection, Japan, by whom acquired in the early 1970s
Acquired from the above by the present owner, after 2008
Exhibited
Tokyo, Suntory Museum, Marc Chagall, Voyages en amourie, April - June 2006, no. 18, p. 36 & 156 (illustrated, p. 37; dated '1970')
Nara, Nara Prefectural Museum of Art, Marc Chagall, In Praise of Love and Nature, October-December 2007, no. 59, pp.126 & 207 (illustrated, p. 127; dated '1970')
Karuizawa, Musée d'Art Mercian, Marc Chagall, La légende du bouquet, July-September 2008, no. 35, pp. 31 & 71 (dated '1970')
Special notice

This Lot has been sourced from overseas. When auctioned, such property will remain under “bond” with the applicable import customs duties and taxes being deferred unless and until the property is brought into free circulation in the PRC. Prospective buyers are reminded that after paying for such lots in full and cleared funds, if they wish to import the lots into the PRC, they will be responsible for and will have to pay the applicable import customs duties and taxes. The rates of import customs duty and tax are based on the value of the goods and the relevant customs regulations and classifications in force at the time of import.
Post lot text
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work

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Lot Essay

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing” - Marc Chagall

Filled with the heady romance and fragrance of an exuberant blossoming bouquet, Marc Chagall’s Le bouquet de lilas presents a triumphal expression of beauty and joy during the highly successful period of his mature career in the 1960s. All senses are evoked from the abundant scent of the blooming lilacs, the musical melody of the flutist at its centre, the glowing beauty of his smiling muse to its left and the tactile bodies of his docile farm animals throughout. The ambient light of the crescent moon hovers high above Chagall’s distinctive azure blue landscape, evoking beloved memories of his homeland in the town of Vitebsk that merge in a dreamlike glow with an evocation of the plentiful surroundings of his present home in the vibrant artistic centre of the South of France. Chagall’s sense of abundance comes to fruition in this bursting, colourful, composition, enhanced by its rich impasto surface, with iconic motifs from his lifelong artistic repertoire playing out the full experience of life he looks back upon.

Chagall often used flowers as a symbol of romantic love in his paintings, incorporating the motif in his compositions in order to evoke the intense feelings of passion and love that absorbed him. He 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 colours and heady scent. The theme of flowers was one to which Chagall returned time and again throughout his career, though his pursuit of the subject became particularly fervent in the mid-1920s. As James Johnson Sweeney has noted, ‘It was in Toulon in 1924, Chagall recalls, that the charm of French flowers first struck him. He claims that he had not known bouquets of flowers in Russia...He said that when he painted a bouquet it was as if he was painting a landscape. It represented France to him. But the discovery was also a logical one in the light of the change taking place in his vision and pictorial interests. Flowers, especially mixed bouquets of tiny blossoms, offer a variety of delicate colour combinations and a fund of texture contrasts which were beginning to hold Chagall’s attention more and more” (Marc Chagall, New York, 1946, p. 56).

Chagall had from the outset established himself as a colourist, but it was not until the latter part of his life that colour achieved its full radiance in his work, brought about in no small part by his moving to Vence in the South of France in 1949. As Franz Meyer, Chagall’s biographer and son-in-law, explained: ‘Chagall’s new sojourn in the south exerted a decisive influence on his art. The light, the vegetation, the rhythm of life all contributed to the rise of a more relaxed, airy, sensuous style in which the magic of colour dominates more and more with the passing of the years’ (Marc Chagall: Life and Work, London, 1964, p. 519). Colour in Chagall’s work would extend to become a compositional element in its own right, defining the motif as much as describing it, as can be witnessed in his incredibly sumptuous and ebullient bouquets. As Meyer further noted, ‘Sometimes flowers are the source of light that illuminates the entire picture” (ibid., p. 552).

Vence too would provide the fertile ground for a new relationship, representing the love he so desired and revered coming to fruition with his marriage in 1952 to second wife Valentina Brodsky. Known to Chagall affectionately as “Vava”, her presence is suggested in the smiling female bride pictured to the lower left of Le bouquet de lilas, holding a smaller bouquet of vibrant red and pink flowers. Chagall had long spoken of the triumph of love as the ultimate human experience, revering it as his inspiration; 'If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing’ (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 16). The artist had initially experienced a deep and profound love with his first wife and muse Bella Rosenfeld who had been taken away from him in 1944. His new relationship with Vava would bring renewed sustenance, stability, harmony and joy to his world as can be seen in the exuberance of colour, sensuality and happiness in his mature oeuvre. It was Vava too who encouraged Chagall to paint more flowers at this time, their romance and happiness further radiating further through this motif.

The creative confidence exuding from the powerful painterly style of Le bouquet de lilas reflects the period of the 1960s as a decade of prominence and creative fervour for Chagall. By this time, he was one established as one of the most important artists of the modern generation and was undertaking some of the most ambitious commissions of his artistic career. Chagall’s work graces large spaces across the world to this day with such magnificent and powerful painterly structures such as the ceiling of the Paris Opera House, the Opéra Garnier, initially commissioned in 1960 and unveiled to the public in 1964; the spectacular La Vie from 1964 at the Fondation Maeght in Basel; and dual murals for the Metropolitan Opera in New York from 1966. Further commissions in jewel-like stained glass became a sensation, such as the The Window of Peace and Human Happiness, created in 1964 for the United Nations, situated in New York, and the Good Samaritan window, commissioned in 1963 by David Rockefeller in tribute to his late father John D. Rockefeller Jr. for the Union Church of Pocantico Hills in New York. These were followed by eight further windows memorialising members of the Rockefeller family that would be installed in 1966. Such commissions, each on a grand scale, reinforce the artist’s powerful expressions of joy, harmony and peace through pursuits of life such as music, art and love that unite humanity through solidarity.

Françoise Gilot recalled in her seminal memoir that Picasso once remarked, 'When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is… Some of the last things he’s done in Vence convince me that there’s never been anybody since Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has’ (quoted in F. Gilot and C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 258). Feeling both the comfort in his success as an artistic icon, the contentment of his abounding love for his devoted Vava and the sensual abundant environment of his surroundings, Chagall had arrived in his golden years of happiness. Le bouquet de lilas, on its grand scale, with its bold and painterly technique in vivid colour exemplifies this success, standing as a blossoming celebration, a testament to the artist’s achievements of life, work and love.

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