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

Le peintre et les mariés aux trois couleurs

Details
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
Le peintre et les mariés aux trois couleurs
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower right ); signed again 'Marc Chagall' (on the reverse)
oil and tempera on canvas
45 1⁄2 x 31 7⁄8 in. (116 x 81 cm.)
Painted in 1984
Provenance
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.
Post lot text
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Created in the final full year of Marc Chagall’s artistic career, Le peintre et les mariés aux trois couleurs is a vibrant meditation on the nature of creativity, examining the profound connection between an artist and the events, experiences and objects which inspire them. Executed in a rich interplay of primary colour, it focuses on the figure of a painter before his canvas, palette and paintbrush in hand, a motif that has often been linked to Chagall’s extensive repertoire of self-portraiture. Though he raises his brush to apply pigment to the canvas, the artist’s eyes are not on the painting before him, but rather are drawn downwards to the embracing couple who float, weightless above the townscape of Chagall’s native Vitebsk. This familiar scene, a central subject within Chagall’s oeuvre, appears in a hazy, dreamlike state, as if an apparition conjured by the artist’s memory and imagination. Above, in the upper left corner of the canvas, another scene begins to take shape, as a crowd of people emerge from the blue pigment, their outlines summarily sketched as if they have not yet solidified in the artist’s mind’s-eye.

Through a carefully considered placement of figures and motifs, Chagall generates an important sense of movement within the composition, leading the viewer in a clockwise motion through the various vignettes within the painting. Beginning with the floating figure who enters from the top right corner of the scene, our eye travels in a sweeping circular motion from the artist to the bride and groom, on to the angel and rooster floating alongside them, up through the crowd of miniature figures, before bringing us back around to the canvas on the easel. This picture-within-a-picture features one of Chagall’s own favourite subjects during the later years of his career – a large bouquet of colourful flowers, their resplendent blooms bursting with life and offering an explosion of colour at the very heart of the composition. As indicated by the exchange between the bride and groom below, such blooms represented the archetypal gift of a lover to their paramour, and as such were a symbol of passionate love within Chagall’s lexicon.

One of the most striking elements of Le peintre et les mariés aux trois couleurs is the artist’s extraordinary use of colour. For Chagall, colour had always been among the most integral elements of a composition, with the artist describing it as ‘the pulse of a work of art’ (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 180). Here, he divides the canvas into three distinctive segments using vivid tones of red, green and blue, each hue demarcating an individual zone within the painting. A subtle line of pale colour highlights the junctures between these planes, tracing the gently curved lines of their edges as they sweep across the canvas in a lyrical arch. Generating a visual tension between the different areas of colour, this delicate use of line and pattern recall the artist’s work in stained glass windows, where a similar approach was used in the thin strips of leading employed to join different pieces of glass together.

The artist had first explored the creative potentials of stained glass towards the end of the 1950s, with a project for Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce in Assy. This was swiftly followed by an invitation from Robert Renard, the chief architect working on the restoration of Metz Cathedral, to design new windows to replace those which had been extensively damaged during the Second World War. For Chagall, who would later describe these windows as ‘the transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world,’ stained glass offered an intriguing creative challenge and a different route to marrying painting and architecture (quoted in in J. Wullschlager, Chagall: Love and Exile, London, 2008, p. 491). Collaborating with Charles Marq and Brigitte Simon on the realisation of the project, this commission sparked Chagall’s imagination, allowing him to explore light and colour on a monumental scale, while also encouraging a new dialogue with his favourite leitmotifs and subjects. Over the course of the following two decades he undertook a number of large-scale stained-glass projects, creating windows for both religious and secular spaces, such as the Rockefeller Chapel in the Hudson Valley, the United Nations Headquarters in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, working closely with Marq and Simon to achieve a rich chromatic intensity that translated the unique qualities of his painterly style to the medium.

In turn, his experiences with stained glass had a direct and lasting impact on Chagall’s painterly oeuvre – through the final decades of his career, the artist’s palette was infused with a new radiance and luminosity, his scenes enlivened by a bold, almost abstract approach to colour, and a dynamic sense of space. In Le peintre et les mariés aux trois couleurs the influence of this can be seen in the way the primary colours within each panel are subtly modulated, growing deeper and warmer in certain sections, brighter and more vibrant in others, creating a rich surface that shifts and changes as the eye moves across the canvas, echoing the effect of light passing through coloured glass. Similarly, while the planes of colour play a structural role in the overall composition, the characters are not limited by the boundaries they impose. Instead these figures have a certain freedom, floating between the different spaces, crossing from one coloured segment to another, in a manner that recalls the artist’s works in stained glass, where his delicately rendered paintings were woven across the bounds of the leading.

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