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Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
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Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Le frère David

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Le frère David
signed 'Marc Chagall' (lower right)
pencil on paper
14 x 8 3/8 in. (35.3 x 21.3 cm.)
Drawn circa 1915-1920
David McNeil (the artist's son), Paris, by descent from the artist (no. D 1162).
Acquired from the above by the present owners in 1987.
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1964, no. 184 (ill.).
V. Rakitin, Chagall, Disegni inediti dalla Russia a Parigi, Milan, 1989, p. 60 (ill. p. 61).
Milan, Studio Marconi, Marc Chagall, Disegni inediti dalla Russia a Parigi, May - July 1988; this exhibition later travelled to Turin, Galleria della Sindone, Palazzo Reale, Dec. 1990 - Mar. 1991; Catania, Monastero dei Benedettini, Oct. - Nov. 1994; Meina, Museo e centro studi per il disegno, June - Aug. 1996.
Hannover, Sprengel Museum, Marc Chagall, "Himmel und Erde", Dec. 1996 - Feb. 1997.
Darmstadt, Institut Mathildenhöhe, Marc Chagall, Von Russland nach Paris, Zeichnungen 1906-1967, Dec. 1997 - Jan. 1998.
Abbazia Olivetana, Fondazione Ambrosetti, Marc Chagall, Il messaggio biblico, May - July 1998.
Klagenfurt, Stadtgalerie, Marc Chagall, Feb. - May 2000, p. 41 (ill.).
Florida, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Chagall, Jan. - Mar. 2002.
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Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate from David McNeil.

Chagall excels in depicting every single trait of his brother David (1891-1921), revealing Marc's intimacy and closeness to David, who was only four years younger than him (fig. 1). This is one of the most exquisitely executed and finished drawings in Chagall's series of 'documents', which he produced at his return to Vitebsk in 1913-1914, after his stay in Paris. Coming back home awakened Chagall's profound attachment to his native town and family, inspiring him to concentrate on this series of fifty or sixty drawings.

In these 'documents', he celebrated his life in Vitebsk with naturalistic descriptions of the surroundings, carefully focusing on his family and their activities, such as his grandmother making jam (M 168), his mother baking (M 167) and his father at a table with a glass of tea (M p. 229). Chagall's family was certainly one of the central inspirational sources to his art: 'If my art had no place in my family's life, their lives and their achievements greatly influenced my art' (My Life, p. 22).

Chagall's attention was particularly turned towards his brother David, as is evident from the numerous portraits of him produced between 1914 and 1916 (M 184-187). Chagall's urge to depict David may be related to his instinctive feeling that his brother would not be around for long and indeed, David died of tuberculosis in 1921. The present drawing is related to Chagall's gouache David and the Mandolin, in which David is bathed in delicate blue hues (fig. 2). Both works, echo the artist's recollection of his radiant smile in My Life: 'I made a sketch of you, David, with the mandolin in your hand. You were laughing. Your rosy mouth, showing all your teeth. You are blue in my picture' (p. 144). Brotherly affection and Chagall's happy memories of his brother are given life and rendered eternal with the artist's mastering of the pencil.

(fig. 1) Chagall with his brother David. Archives Marc et Ida Chagall, Paris; © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2007.

(fig. 2) Marc Chagall, David playing the mandolin, 1914.

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