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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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Marc Chagall
1887 - 1985
LES TULIPES MAUVES
signed Marc Chagall (lower right)
oil on paper laid down on canvas
66.7 by 52cm., 26¼ by 20½in.
Painted in 1928.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Chagall.

Provenance

Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired in 1981)
Thence by descent to the present owner

Exhibited

Chagall (exhibition catalogue), Takashimaya Nihonbashi, Tokyo (& travelling in Japan), 1980, no. P5, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Literature

Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1961, no. 512, illustrated n.p.

Catalogue Note

The present work represents a major turning point in Chagall’s art of the mid-1920s, for at this time he became increasingly interested in studying and, to some degree, adapting to the prevailing stylistic schools in France. It has been noted that during these years, ‘Chagall came to terms with the discontinuity between his old and new lives and began to gain increasingly wide recognition. Following his arrival in Paris there was a marked change in his work, reflecting new priorities. France was now home, and the artist used every opportunity to embrace French culture. “The soil which had nourished the roots of my art was Vitebsk,” he remembered later, “but my art needed Paris—like a tree needs water—otherwise it would have withered.” He became familiar with the leading members of the artistic avant-garde; having literary and poetic inclinations, he also enjoyed the company of the city’s writers and intellectuals’ (Chagall: Love, War and Exile (exhibition catalogue), The Jewish Museum, New York, 2013-14, pp. 23-25).

This period corresponds with Chagall’s return to Paris from Russia, where he was effectively trapped during the First World War and through the early years of the Russian Revolution. It was also a period of newly achieved financial security, for in 1926 he signed a contract with  Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, among the most prestigious dealers in France who represented such established top-tier painters as  Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard. It was at this time that bouquets in particular ‘became a common theme in his work. Chagall saw them as quintessentially French, claiming that he had not known of them in Russia. Bella brought home lavish bouquets from the markets, which Chagall transformed into lyrical expressions of joy. These are not traditional still lifes; rather, the bunches of blooms, enlarged out of all proportion, capture the spirit of nature, or perhaps the spirit of France and of Bella’ (ibid., p. 25).

Indeed the resulting vibrant and light-filled images underscore a certain restraint in Chagall’s output from this period, for they lack the multi-colored roosters, inverted rabbis and flying peasants of the artist’s earlier and later oeuvre, even though the flowers may still be perceived as an expression of the artist’s love for and close relationship with his wife Bella, whose figure would soon be consistently incorporated into such compositions. The present work wonderfully features a light and airy palette, attributable to the artist’s travels to the Côte d’Azur and specifically to Nice, where he first journeyed in 1926 with Bella and their daughter Ida. Both the light and the vegetation of the Mediterranean coast were a revelation to the artist, and from this first sojourn would stem a life-long passion for the South of France.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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London