MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE STELLA COLLECTION
MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)


MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)
signed ‘Chagall’ (center right) and dated '1940' (lower right)
gouache, pastel and charcoal on paper laid down on canvas
19 7/8 x 26 3/8 in. (50.2 x 60.8 cm.)
Executed in 1940
Acquired by the family of the present owners, circa 1960.
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall: Life and Work, New York, 1964, no. 688 (illustrated).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Marc Chagall, September-December 1982, p. 154, no. 56 (illustrated in color, p. 115).
Special notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
Post lot text
The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Sale room notice
Please note this work is dated ‘1940’ on the lower right edge.

Lot Essay

Vividly colored and rich with personal symbolism, Chagall’s Autoportrait is an important work that dates from 1940, one of the most turbulent moments of the artist’s life. Having become French nationals in 1937, at this time, Chagall and his wife Bella were living in the rural French countryside; first in St. Dyé sur Loire, before they moved in April 1940, to Gordes, a small village in Provence. Yet, the political situation in Europe was rapidly deteriorating; the same day that Chagall purchased a house in Gordes, the Germans invaded Belgium and Holland. By June, Paris had fallen. Chagall was hesitant to make any plans to flee Europe, refusing to concede the danger he faced by remaining in France, and instead immersing himself in his painting. It was not until Varian Fry of the Emergency Rescue Committee arrived in Gordes offering the artist and his wife assistance in moving to America that plans were set in motion for the artist’s departure. Ida, his daughter, collected Chagall’s art from Paris, and, in mid-June of 1941, Chagall and Bella set sail for New York, unsure of whether they would ever see Europe again.
Autoportrait was painted during this period of intense uncertainty. At this time, the theme of the self-portrait appears frequently in Chagall’s art, the result perhaps of the artist’s need to reaffirm his identity. Indeed, in his application for a French reentry visa, Chagall wrote, “Since 1910 I have chosen France, my adopted country, where I arrived very young to absorb the artistic culture of this country of art and painting. Since that date, my artistic career has unfolded entirely in France. I have always been very honored to be considered as a French painter” (quoted in J. Wullschlager, Chagall: A Biography, New York, 2008, p. 389). In the present work, Chagall has presented himself in the quintessential pose of an artist: positioned in front of his easel, with his palette and his brushes conjoined to his hand. A rural landscape stretches to the left of the artist, the small, clustered cottages likely a memory of Chagall's beloved Vitebsk, the Russian village where he grew up.
As early as 1907, Chagall painted his first self-portrait at the age of twenty. By 1909, he had already adopted the pose of a painter, clearly conscious of his skills. Chagall pursued this type of self-representation throughout his career. Chagall depicted himself frequently in his role as the artist, leading Lionello Venturi to note that "Chagall's work is a poetic metaphor of his own autobiography" (Marc Chagall: Monotypes, 1966-1975, Geneva, 1976, vol. II, p. 12). The artist is presented at the heart of his own imaginary world in Autoportrait, an exercise in inward reflection, through which he sought to gain a deeper understanding of all aspects of the world.
Autoportrait was part of an extensive collection of nearly 100 works formed throughout the 1950s and 60s. The collection contained works by the towering figures of 20th century art such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Max Ernst, among others. Often acquired either directly from the artists with whom the collector, a German emigre to the US in the 1920, shared personal friendships, or through their primary dealers such as Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler and Aimé Maeght, historic figures in their own right.

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