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

Soir de Vence

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)
Soir de Vence
signed and dated 'Marc Chagall 1955' (lower right)
gouache, watercolor, pastel, and brush and black ink on paper laid down on canvas
23 5/8 x 19 ¼ in. (60 x 58.7 cm.)
Painted in 1955
Private collection, Basel.
Schoneman Galleries, Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1980.
F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1964, p. 761, no. 921 (illustrated).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Painted in 1955, Soir de Vence combines two distinctive elements in Chagall’s personal iconography that occupied his career and came to encapsulate his philosophies of romantic love: the dreamlike floating couple and the rich bouquet of flowers. The painting is a pictorial representation of Chagall’s belief in the powerful force of Love, which for him was both motivation and motif. A poetic crescent moon hovers above the floating couple as they engage in an amorous embrace. Three years after painting Soir de Vence, Chagall expressed the following sentiment regarding the importance of love as an inspirational feature of his work: “In it lies the true Art: from it comes my technique, my religion...All other things are a sheer waste of energy, waste of means, waste of life, of time...Art, without Love—whether we are ashamed or not to use that well-known word—such a plastic art would open the wrong door” (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall, A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 179).
Chagall titled this work after the city of Vence, a metropolis set in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France. The beautiful area had enchanted the artist, and he chose to spend most of his time during this period living there with his new bride Valentine "Vava" Brodsky, whom he had married in 1952. The central register of the painting is dominated by a bright blossoming bouquet, an explosion of color that often characterizes the artist’s treatment of flowers.
Chagall had first introduced floral still-lifes into his paintings in the mid-1920s. Having returned to France from his native Russia in 1923, the artist developed a newfound appreciation for nature, and was particularly enraptured by flowers, finding them to be the embodiment of the stunning French landscape that he so adored. The vivacious nature of his floral arrangement in Soir de Vence, which presents the effervescent blooms as a source of illumination within the picture, standing out against the neutral colors of the background and townscape. Love, according to Chagall, is enlightening, and works such as Soir de Vence perfectly demonstrate Pablo Picasso’s laudatory remarks about Chagall that “Some of the last things he's done in Vence convince me that there's never been anybody since Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has” (quoted in F. Gilot and C. Lake, Life with Picasso, New York, 1964, p. 282).
(fig. 1) Marc Chagall in his studio in Vence circa 1957.

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