Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AUSTRALIAN COLLECTION
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Hommage au passé

Details
Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Hommage au passé
signed and dated 'Marc Chagall 944' (lower right)
oil on canvas
28¼ x 29 7/8 in. (71.7 x 75.9 cm.)
Painted in 1944
Provenance
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1948.
Dr J.J. Mayers, New York.
Van Diemen-Lilienfeld Galleries, New York.
Feigel Gallery.
Fred Serger, 1954.
Mr & Mrs Ludwig Neugass, New York, by 1956.
Private collection, Australia, by 1986.
Literature
R. Maritain, Chagall, ou l'orage enchanté, Geneva, 1948, p. 154 (illustrated; titled 'La ville').
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1964, no. 736, pp. 452 & 758 (illustrated; titled 'The Town').
J. Cassou, Chagall, London, 1965, fig. 115, p. 182 (illustrated).
J. Baal-Teshuva, Marc Chagall, 1887-1985, Cologne & New York, 1998, p. 169 (illustrated).
Exhibited
New York, Perls Galleries, Chagall, March - April 1956, no. 15.
Tokyo, Musée National d'Art Occidental, Marc Chagall, October - November 1963, no. 69, p. 92 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, Musée Municipal, November - December 1963.
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.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.
Sale room notice
Please note that the present work was painted in 1944.

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Adrienne Dumas
Adrienne Dumas

Lot Essay

The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.


Marc Chagall signed Hommage au passé in 1944, yet this picture appears to have undergone a series of evolutions both before and after that date, making it an incredibly revealing testimony to the artist's own life, thoughts and feelings. In his biography of the artist, Chagall's son-in-law Franz Meyer suggested that the painter might have begun Hommage au passé, which has also been recorded with the title La ville, in France before returning to it during the years he spent in the United States of America during the Second World War. Chagall had managed to remain in Vichy France for some time, refusing to abandon his adoptive home, yet persecution had steadily increased and eventually, after an arrest that had given him a jolt, he accepted an invitation from the Museum of Modern Art, New York to travel across the Atlantic. While in the USA, he stayed in New York and then in Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

Hommage au passé may have been revived during the course of Chagall's stay at Cranberry Lake, in part as a response to his own feelings of almost abstract loss as distant Europe was torn apart. France had fallen, and then Russia was invaded and his own native town of Vitebsk suffered greatly. In Hommage au passé, the townscape appears to be a celebratory evocation of the lost homeland of his past, a nostalgic paean bathed in the rich, deep blue of night, the time for dreams. At the same time, the dominant motif of this picture appears to be the artist and his model. In this way, Chagall managed to investigate the nature of artistic creation itself, showing the genesis of a painting, while also paying homage to his wife, Bella, the romantic inspiration for so many of his greatest works. The artist within Hommage au passé has fixed her in his gaze to the exclusion of all else.

Chagall signed Hommage au passé in 1944; it was in September that year that his beloved wife Bella died unexpectedly in hospital. Following this, Chagall moved to his daughter's New York apartment, where he apparently turned his canvases towards the wall and looked out upon the River Hudson (see J. Baal-Teshuva, op. cit., Cologne, 1998, p. 160). Chagall abandoned painting for several months at this time, implying that it was after 1944 that Chagall returned to the picture, adjusting the composition, removing some of the portrait heads that had initially appeared. A reproduction of the picture published in 1948 showed several of these still present, including an image of Chagall himself. In addition, it may have been in that space between 1944 and 1948 that the figure mourning at a grave was included. Subsequently, Chagall appears to have pared back the composition, adding the moon which is echoed in an inverted form on the canvas upon which the artist within the painting is working. This increases the focus on the relationship between the artist and Bella, a theme that was to continue to fuel many of his pictures, making Hommage au passé a romantic tribute to his love for her.

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