Painted in 1982, Le couple aux deux bouquets emerged during one of the most prolific creative periods of Marc Chagall’s career. At this time, he was enjoying a halcyon existence in the South of France with his second wife, Vava, revelling in the brilliant sunshine, vibrant colours and luscious vegetation the Midi had to offer. The stability and contentment he felt in his personal life, combined with recent experiments in a diverse array of media including mosaic and stained glass, had inspired a renewed impetus in the artist’s creative output, and drove him to revisit some of the highly personal themes which had occupied his art for decades. Indeed, painting from a place of great contentment and peace, Chagall began to look back on his life through rose-tinted glasses, creating grand compositions in which he contemplated the chain of events and circumstances which had led him to this point of his life.
The theme of embracing lovers surrounded by colourful bouquets of flowers is one which the artist had consistently explored since the 1920s. In the present work, a couple floats in the centre of the composition, flanked by two vibrant, exploding bouquets of blossoms. On the right, a large vase overflowing with mimosas hovers over the roofs of a Russian village, the brilliant yellow buds echoed in the dress of the female figure. On the left, a pot of roses and chrysanthemums looms above the Seine and the Eiffel Tower. Chagall most likely drew the inspiration for these blossoms straight from life, as bouquets of freshly cut flowers were brought daily to his studio during these years, filling the space with their vibrant colours and heady scent. These two bouquets, symbols of love and beauty, and the lovers who personify them, are rendered with vivid yellow, pink, and orange, the colours made all the more dramatic through their contrast with the rich blue of the background.
One of the most striking elements of Le couple aux deux bouquets is the vibrancy of its sparkling colour palette, and the manner in which Chagall uses jewel-like primary colours, complemented by touches of purple, green and orange, to bring the scene to life. For Chagall, colour had always been one of the most integral elements of a composition, with the painter describing it as ‘the pulse of a work of art’ (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Connecticut, 1995, p. 180). However, it was not until the series of architectural and stained-glass commissions he received in the 1960s that his colour palette reached its full expressive potential, incorporating boldly contrasting passages of pigment and bright primary hues to his compositions. Here, the surface of the canvas is filled with frenzied brushwork, the skein of flickering strokes of pigment capturing a sense of the artist’s vigorous and energetic painterly technique, which remained undimmed by age. Filled with bright, vibrant tones that enhance the joyful nature of the scene, Le couple aux deux bouquets is ripe with nostalgia – for his city of birth, Vitebsk, and for his deceased, eternal bride, Bella and their time together in France. Revealing the importance of memory in Chagall’s thoughts at this stage of his career, the painting portrays an entrancing vision of a world of ecstatic dream and romance.