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

Le peintre, la mariée et son tableau ou Couple et violoniste

MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
Le peintre, la mariée et son tableau ou Couple et violoniste
stamped with the signature 'Marc Chagall' (lower right)
oil, tempera and India ink on canvas
39 1⁄2 x 31 7⁄8 in. (100.3 x 81 cm.)
Painted circa 1970-1975
The estate of the artist, and thence by descent.
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.
Further details
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Created in the early 1970s, Le peintre, la mariée et son tableau powerfully illustrates Marc Chagall’s striking ability to weave together elements from memory, imagination and fantasy in his paintings, conjuring richly narrative works that continue to captivate audiences to this day. At this time, Chagall was at the peak of his international fame, widely considered among the titans of modernism, and one of the most unique artistic voices of the twentieth century. Living in an idyllic corner of the South of France with his second wife Vava, he was able to devote his time and attention to his artistic endeavours, switching seamlessly between grand public commissions in a variety of media, and more intimate paintings that explore the subjects and motifs that fascinated him most. Working from a place of great contentment and peace, Chagall was able to look back on his life, and in particular his youth, with a new degree of clarity and reflection, examining the role his experiences had played in shaping his creative vision.  

Set amidst the distinctive architecture of the artist’s hometown of Vitebsk, Le peintre, la mariée et son tableau focuses on a painter as he stands before his easel, his brush poised as if preparing to add a detail to the foreground of the canvas. Captured in the act of creation, this figure may be seen as a symbolic self-portrait of the artist – from the very earliest stages of his career, Chagall frequently represented himself in this way in his self-portraiture, echoing the examples of his artistic predecessors, from Rembrandt to Van Gogh. Beside him, an ethereal bride carries his palette and keeps a steady eye on his progress, her white dress lit by a delicate play of soft pastel hues that echo the tones of the bouquet of flowers visible in the painting on the easel. The closeness of the two figures, almost conjoined to one another as they contemplate the composition before them, suggests not only a profound intimacy, but also a sense of partnership, as the two work together to bring the painting to life.

Behind the couple, the familiar skyline of Chagall’s hometown of Vitebsk spreads out towards the horizon, a mixture of modest dwellings and monumental domed churches, captured in fluid, sharp lines of pigment. Bathed in moonlight, the scene is enlivened by the presence of a series of Chagall’s favourite leitmotifs, from the violinist and young boy in the foreground, to the rooster carrying a figure on its back, and the bright red cow that seems as if it may float off the canvas on the easel, directly into the painter’s world. Each of these characters reflects a different aspect of the community, atmosphere, and play of life that coloured Chagall’s memories of Vitebsk. For example, the violinist was a frequent feature of the artist’s youth, where music was an integral component in local religious processions, feast days, community celebrations and weddings, while livestock such as cows, goats and chickens were a familiar part of the everyday fabric of the town. 

Such motifs took on a powerful new dimension during these years, particularly after 1973, when Chagall returned to Russia for the first time in over fifty years. Travelling to Moscow and Leningrad on the official invitation of  the Soviet minister for culture Ekaterina Fursteva, Chagall and Vava spent eleven days in the country. They attended the opening of a retrospective of the artist’s work at the Tretyakov Gallery, and enjoyed an emotional reunion with several of the family members and artworks Chagall had left behind half a century before. However, the artist chose not to return to Vitebsk at this time. The town had suffered extensive damage during the Second World War, and little remained of the town that lived so vividly in his memories. Speaking to an American journalist travelling with him at the time, Chagall explained his reluctance to face the realities of these losses in person: ‘Even the gravestones are no longer standing since the war. If the graves were still there I would have gone. They tell me a corner of our house is still standing, but could I have stepped inside? Could you?’ (quoted in H. Kamm, ‘Emotional Return to Russia Buoys Chagall,’ The New York Times, 17 June 1973, p. 1).

As he later explained: ‘At 86 years old, there are memories which one should not disturb. I have not seen Vitebsk for sixty years. What I should see there today would be incomprehensible to me. And moreover, that which forms one living element of my painting would prove to be non-existent. That would be too sad…’ (quoted in A. Kamensky, Chagall: The Russian Years 1907-1922, London, 1989, p. 15). Indeed, these memories were the very life-blood of Chagall’s art, fuelling his imagination and his work. To confront the harsh reality that the Vitebsk he so cherished was lost forever would have no doubt irrevocably altered the artist’s visions of his hometown. Le peintre, la mariée et son tableau is in many ways a paean to this relationship between the artist and his memories of Vitebsk, evocatively conjuring the homeland of his past and the way of life that had vanished with the passing of time, while simultaneously shining a spotlight on Chagall’s role in memorialising it for eternity.

Creating a fluid boundary between the symbolic realms of the present and past, the real and imaginary, in Le peintre, la mariée et son tableau Chagall transformed Vitebsk into something mysterious and mystical. For him, art was something that emanated from emotions, not from thoughts, deeply rooted in his most personal feelings, which have then collided in his mind, in a combination of dream and memory. As he himself commented, ‘If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing’ (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 16).

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