This work is sold with a photo-certificate from the Comité Chagall.
A closed window, a bare landscape with mountains powdered with snow discretely hiding one small chalet, and a deep luminous blue wallpaper touched by the end of a bed. With a description as such, the present lot stands out in Chagall's oeuvre of the time, considering his numerous paintings of 1927 related to the circus theme. Dans les Alpes is an inward reflection of the artist on himself, which he shares with the privileged viewer, inviting us to gaze out into the distance from behind the window which acts as the boundary between indoors and outdoors. This very personal work, heavily charged with the artist's deepest emotions, is much related to Chagall's life at the time he executed this drawing.
In 1923, Chagall immigrated to Paris with his family and once again, the Jewish artist needed to integrate himself into the culture of a foreign country. He attempted to do this not only by illustrating books by very 'French' authors such as Jean de La Fontaine, but also by travelling around France and recording in his works the various landscapes he discovered there. Landscapes were important for Chagall in that he used them to return to his Russian roots: he described himself as a 'tree' which had been 'uprooted' by exile. The artist wrote:
'I arrived in France with still some earth on the roots of my shoes. It takes time for this earth to dry and fall. When this happened to me, independently from my own will, I needed to find another reality. I found it in the landscapes of France, the flowers of the South of France, the horizons of Peira-Cava, the earth of Gordes and of Le Roussillon, the deep reds of Mexico (...)'.
The present drawing dates from the holidays that Chagall, his wife Bella and his daughter Ida used to spend in the Alps during the winters of 1928-1930. They usually took rooms at l'Hôtel du Soleil d'Or in Mégève and from there visited the surrounding villages. These quiet and snowy mountainous landscapes, dotted with wooden houses and local churches, conjured up for Chagall memories of landscapes of his native Russia. The tranquil yet chilly atmosphere of this work, the looming presence of the mountain and the two prickly bushes outside the window suggest Chagall's feeling of unease as well as nostalgia. The window, a recurring motif throughout Chagall's oeuvre, represents the ambiguity of Chagall's position towards this external world. It represents both a form of protective shield from it, and a visual pathway into it. The celestial blue light that floods the interior where the artist sits contrasts with the earthy colours of the landscape, and highlights the separation between Chagall's dreamily reflective inner world and the reality of the outer world. He seems to hesitate and meditate on this phenomenon, as suggested in the last sentence in his autobiographical book, Ma Vie, 'Peut-être l'Europe m'aimera et avec elle ma Russie' (M. Chagall, Ma Vie, Paris, 1998, p. 208).