MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
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MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)

La vache dans la chambre

MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
La vache dans la chambre
signed and dated '1911. Chagall.' (lower centre); indistinctly signed and dated again '1911 Chagall' (lower right)
gouache and pen and ink, heightened with silver and gold, on paper laid down on board
7 ¼ x 8 ¼ in. (18.5 x 21 cm.)
Executed in Paris in 1911
Prof. Stephen Bartow Baxter & Mrs Ann Sweeney Baxter, North Carolina & New York, a gift from the artist; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 20 May 1982, lot 13.
Private collection, by whom acquired at the above sale, and thence by descent to the present owners.
'Marc Chagall', in Sélection, Chronique de la vie artistique, no. 6, Antwerp, 1929, p. 76 (illustrated; titled 'Intérieur').
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, London, 1964, no. 69, p. 746 (illustrated p. 626; with incorrect dimensions).
A.P. de Mandiargues, Chagall, Paris, 1974, no. 2, p. 202 (illustrated p. 7; with inverted dimensions).
A. Kamensky, Chagall, The Russian Years 1907-1922, London, 1989, p. 83 (illustrated; with inverted dimensions).
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Marc Chagall, November 1984 - February 1985, no. 11, n.p. (titled 'Vache sur le plancher d’argent').
Balingen, Stadthalle Balingen, Marc Chagall zum 100. Geburtstag, Gouachen und Aquarelle, June - August 1987, p. 88 (illustrated p. 89; with inverted dimensions).
London, Barbican Art Gallery, Chagall to Kitaj, Jewish Experience in 20th Century Art, October 1990 - January 1991, no. 101, p. 187.
Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, Marc Chagall, Die Russischen Jahre 1906-1922, June - September 1991, no. 24, p. 389 (illustrated pl. 24).
Linz, Neue Galerie der Stadt Linz, Marc Chagall, 1887-1985, March - June 1994, no. 10, p. 56 (illustrated p. 57).
Paris, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Marc Chagall, Les années russes, 1907-1922, April - September 1995, no. 31, p. 264 (illustrated p. 68).
Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, Chagall: The Breakthrough Years, 1911-1919, September 2017 - January 2018, no. 11, p. 288 (illustrated p. 162); this exhibition later travelled to Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum, June - September 2018.
Further Details
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

Vache dans la chambre is a rare, early and powerful tour de force of a young Marc Chagall. Executed in 1911, this vivid gouache exemplifies the dynamic eclecticism of the Russian artist at the start of his career, just when he first arrived in Paris from his native Vitebsk in 1910. The present work, a study for the oil La chambre jaune (Fondation Beyeler, Basel), takes on a shining green and silver interior as stage for a dream-like, night-time scene. A man, walking to an open door, looks back towards a table, where a woman is left with raised arms. On the other side of the room, a cow lies on the floor. The doorway opens onto a sleepy townscape of low-rise homes, smoking chimneys, and a crowning, shimmering moon.

The present lot belongs to a series of seminal works in which Chagall explored his identity, both Russian and Jewish, within the context of Paris, where he would remain until 1914. Indeed, the artist’s immersion in the art of the city was immediate: Chagall visited the Salon des Indépendents the day after his arrival.

In Paris he discovered the great masters at the Louvre; Van Gogh, Matisse and Gaugin at Galérie Bernheim; Cezanne, Renoir and Monet at Durand-Ruel. Soon after, he would encounter Picasso, Braque and Léger, ushering in a significant period of growth and exchange in his nascent career: ‘it was exactly at this moment that Chagall became Chagall’ (A. Kamensky, Chagall. The Russian Years, 1907-1922, London, 1989, p. 73).

As in the village series, the present work depicts a quotidian scene in a setting that recalls Vitebsk; yet, crucially, the folkloric elements of this seminal provincial culture are here rendered through novel vocabularies — cubist forms and fauvist palettes. In this way, the visual techniques Chagall deploys are reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Le café de nuit: including an intensified chromatic selection, where one or two colours dominate the composition; an unnaturally high viewpoint, distorting the perspective of the room and its elements; and the atmosphere of artificial light indicating the late hours of the night.

Vache dans la chambre offers a rare and unique insight into Chagall’s artistic development. In the present gouache, ornamental patterns adorn the floor, table, and chair; a samovar and a set of cups are rendered in detail. Their presence denotes the artist’s interest in incorporating vernacular decorative motifs. Their absence in the later oil version, on the other hand, reveals Chagall’s absorption of the ‘pure’ Avant-Garde pictorial language, where simplified compositions take precedence. Thus, Vache dans la chambre reveals and announces some of Chagall’s most perennial symbols: the couple, the cow, the still life – barely standing on the table – and a bold defiance of gravity, tropes he would continue to explore throughout his fabled career.

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