The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
“I thought that only love and uncalculating devotion towards others will lead to the greatest harmony in life and in art of which humanity has been dreaming so long. And this must, of course, be included in each utterance, in each brushstroke, and in each colour.’ Chagall, quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 208.
Executed in 1980, Le bouquet combines two distinct elements in Chagall's personal iconography that came to encapsulate his idea of romantic love: the amorous couple and the rich bouquet of flowers. Both themes had preoccupied Chagall throughout his career, with the former swiftly becoming an extension of the symbolic vocabulary of the artist's self-portraits with his beloved second wife Vava. The embracing pair of figures are boldly placed in the foreground, offset magnificently by the floral yellows, pinks and reds of the flowers, as they emerge from the within densely filled composition amongst a burst of green foliage. The ethereal female nude and her lover embrace underneath this bursting bouquet to the right, opposite a bottle of wine and his empty chair to the left, painting a distinctively romantic air, perhaps alluding to the happiness, love and contentment that Chagall felt at this time as he enjoyed an idyllic life in the South of France with Vava.
The explosion of colour that so often characterises his bouquets allowed Chagall to manipulate dramatic contrasts and subtle harmonies with aplomb, particularly when, as in the present work, he sets his flowers against a striking background of deep blue, emblematic of the richness of his palette. Indeed, Le bouquet highlights the profound impact the Côte d’Azur had on the artist, and the manner in which the tranquil atmosphere and beautiful landscapes of the South of France came to influence his painting. As Franz Meyer, Chagall’s biographer and son-in-law, explained: ‘The light, the vegetation, the rhythm of life, all contributed to the rise of a more relaxed, airy, sensuous style in which the magic of colour dominates…’ (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall: Life and Work, London, 1964, p. 519). In Le bouquet Chagall uses a sumptuous and effervescent blue throughout the composition, evoking the bright, azure light that filled the town, while the lush vitality of the foliage and red flowers highlight the sense of abundance and plenitude that radiated from the Provençal landscape. Chagall most likely drew the inspiration for these blossoms straight from life, as bouquets of freshly cut flowers were brought daily to his studio during these years, filling the space with their vibrant colours and heady scent.
Although Chagall insisted throughout his career that it was not his intention to create paintings which were symbolic in nature, the autobiographical lexicon inherent in his works is certainly hard to ignore. Le bouquet was painted at a time when Chagall had achieved happiness in his romantic life, and was enjoying professional success as well. In Le bouquet, this joyful exuberance - along with a wistful reminder of the artist's youth - is readily apparent.