'I have always painted pictures where human love floods my colors.'
Daphnis and Chloé
is a timeless tale of innocence, cruel fate, loyalty, betrayal, vengeful gods and even dastardly pirates, but one in which love ultimately conquers all.
Almost nothing is known about the author — even his name is in doubt — although he was probably a native of Italy who wrote in Greek, familiar with the
island of Lesbos where the action takes place. But the one thing we do know for certain is that it was written over 2,000 years ago.
That the artist Marc Chagall came to illustrate it is due to a combination of factors, one of which was the turbulent state of his personal life during his years of
exile in the U.S., during and after World War II. With the death of his beloved first wife, Bella, in 1944, Chagall lost the tranquility and security essential
to his work. It was with a great deal of relief, then, that he met and finally married Valentina (Vava) Brodsky, in 1952.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Temple et Histoire de Bacchus (1961), lithograph in colours on Arches wove paper.
To mark this new, calmer phase in his life, Chagall embarked on a long honeymoon, travelling from Rome to Athens, then Delphi, and finally the island of
Poros. The itinerary was suggested by his friend Tériade, not only a great supporter but also one of the most important art publishers of the 20th century.
Tériade commissioned Chagall to provide a series of illustrations to Daphnis and Chloe, believing that Chagall was uniquely suited to depicting
this tale of young love triumphing over adversity, and that exposure to the light and sun of the Greek islands would also be a perfect tonic for his
long-suffering friend. It was probably no coincidence that Tériade, although a French national, was a native of Mytilene, capital of Lesbos.
Tériade was right. Chagall fell in love with the sea, the landscape and the light of the Peloponnese. On the trip he made a series of sun-filled gouaches
and pastel drawings, preparatory studies for the 42 lithographs he would subsequently create back in Paris with the master lithographer Fernand
Mourlot. The result has come to be regarded as one of the most beautiful illustrated books of the last century.
Our latest online sale, Daphnis & Chloé: Prints by Marc Chagall, runs from 28 April – 7 May 2015, and features all 42 works from this renowned suite. Each work displays the vibrant colors and the whimsical imagery for which the artist is justly famous.