Acquavella Galleries Inc., New York
Acquired from the above in January 1965
Chagall found a strong affinity between painting and dreaming, themes exquisitely reflected in this composition. The extreme boldness of color and dynamic energy of the unstructured composition conveys the fantasy and exuberance of his inner and ideal world. Bouquet sur les toits du village contains several of the most crucial elements in the artist's pictorial iconography: symbols of his agrarian roots, domesticity and a landscape evoking both the villages of his childhood home in Russia and the Mediterranean coastal towns in the south of France. The amalgamation of these elements results in a whimsical, dream-like composition that becomes an expression of the artist’s internal universe rather than an objective commentary of the modern world.
In the present work, an all-encompassing blue sapphire pigment sets the ethereal stage as a vibrant bouquet of flowers bursts from a vase floating above the cityscape. These flowering patches of rich crimson reds, pure whites and lively yellows float above small wooden houses. Chagall painted these houses when reminiscing of his childhood home in Vitebsk and also his beloved Côte d’Azur town, where he lived from 1950-73, later to be buried there in 1985. Picasso, who lived near Chagall during his years in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, once spoke to Françoise Gilot of his palette: “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is… His canvases are really painted, not just tossed together. 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 Francoise Gilot, Life with Picasso, New York, 1989, p. 282).
The journalist Alexander Liberman, who visited Chagall in Vence in the late 1950's, eloquently described the intricacy of Chagall's paintings: "Like a human being, a Chagall painting reveals its rich complexity only if one has lived with it and in it, in the way the artist has during its creation. One must look at his paintings closely to experience their full power. After the impact of the overall effect, there is the joy of the close-up discovery. In this intimate scrutiny, the slightest variation takes on immense importance. We cannot concentrate for a long time; our senses tire quickly and we need, after moments of intense stimulation, periods of rest. Chagall understands this visual secret better than most painters; he draws our interest into a corner where minute details hold it, and when we tire of that, we rest, floating in a space of color, until the eye lands on a new small island of quivering life" (A. Liberman, "The Artist in His Studio," 1958, reprinted in Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Chagall: A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), China, 1995, p. 337).
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