Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
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Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Les trois bouquets ou Le bouquet renversé

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Les trois bouquets ou Le bouquet renversé
signed 'Chagall Marc' (lower left)
oil on canvas
13 x 16 1/8 in. (33 x 41.4 cm.)
Painted circa 1935-1937
Goldschmidt collection, New York; sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., New York, 20 April 1950, lot 77.
S. Oppenheimer (acquired at the above sale).
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.
Paul Long, Scottsdale (acquired from the above, 1988).
Michael McGarry, Yucca Valley, California.
Kathryn B. Pollak, Rancho Mirage, California.
Caryl Golden and Robert Zinner, California (by descent from the above).
Palm Springs Art Museum (gift from the above, January 1996); sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 3 November 2005, lot 372.
Alexander Gray Associates, New York.
Private collection, United States (acquired from the above, circa 2006); sale, Sotheby’s, London, 2 March 2017, lot 347.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Further details
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Lot Essay

You could wonder for hours what flowers mean, but for me, theyre life itself, in all its happy brilliance. We couldnt do without flowers. Flowers help you forget life’s tragedies.” – Marc Chagall
Produced at the climax of a vibrant burst of creative energy, Chagall’s Les trois bouquets (Le bouquet renversé), circa 1935-1937, dates from the artist’s last years in Europe before he fled to the United States in the Second World War. In increasingly perilous times, Chagall realized he and his family were people without a country. He possessed no valid passport that would serve as legal identification and permit him to travel abroad. He knew he must become a French citizen. It was difficult, however, for an Eastern European Jew living in France to obtain a naturalization decree, especially one like himself who also had to overcome the political stumbling block of having been made a “commissar” during the early Bolshevik regime. Chagall wrote letters suggesting projects to editors of various reviews, including Jean Paulhan of the influential Nouvelle Revue Française. It was the result of Paulhan’s intervention, as it turned out, that a notice dated 13 June 1937 appeared in the Journal officiel, declaring Chagall and his family to have been made naturalized French citizens.
The vibrant blossoms in Les trois bouquets (Le bouquet renversé) embody Chagall’s vision of a beneficent France; this fantasy of a floral extravaganza represents an outpouring of the lumière-liberté which Chagall cherished in his now officially adopted land. He painted major floral compositions during 1935-1938. “One is tempted to link the new natural sensuousness of Chagall’s art with the happy turn in his personal affairs,” Franz Meyer wrote. “The move to a new home in 1936 (at 4, Villa Eugène Manuel, near the Trocadéro), where he felt especially at ease, may have contributed to his change of mood.” The atmosphere in Paris “was also more relaxed despite current world events. The year 1937 brought the universal exhibition to the Trocadéro Gardens, a few yards from the Chagalls’ home” (Marc Chagall, New York, 1964, p. 422).
The eponymous, richly-painted bouquets in the present work are presented in a serene blue landscape, with two cherubic heads in the heavens above, as a bold red goat trots along the lower border of the canvas. The fences and rooftops are those of the artist’s native Vitebsk. Chagall’s vision is a dreamlike, night fantasy, bathed in rich aquamarine tones. His landscape represents the roundness of the globe, reflecting the ways in which Chagall’s world had grown as he naturalized as a French citizen.
Bright flowers dominate the composition, their vivid coloration defying the nocturnal mood. Chagall was not exclusively a still-life painter, yet flowers are perhaps the single most prevalent theme throughout his oeuvre. Blooms burst from the ground, conquer the heavens, and fill vases; for Chagall, perhaps their symbolic meaning subsumed their natural beauty. Susan Compton has written, “a bouquet of flowers being the archetypal gift for a lover to bring. Yet cut flowers are ephemeral: through man’s artifice their beauty is arranged momentarily. So in these themes the artist reminds us of the impermanence as well as the ecstasy of human love” (Chagall, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 212). For Chagall, flowers represented both romantic and familial love, and they proliferate across his canvases. These cheerful blossoms convey Chagall’s fundamentally hopeful, loving approach to painting. As the art critic E. Tériade has written, “To see the world through bouquets! Huge, monstrous bouquets in ringing profusion, haunting brilliance. Were we to see [Chagall] only through these abundances gathered at random from gardens... and naturally balanced, we could wish for no more precious joy!” ("Chagall and Romantic Painting", J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 136).

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