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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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London

Marc Chagall
1887 - 1985
LE VILLAGE BLEU
signed Marc and dated 1955-59 (lower left) and signed Chagall (lower right); signed Chagall on the reverse
oil on canvas
78 by 71cm.
30 3/4 by 28in.
Painted in 1955-59.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by the Comité Chagall.

Provenance

Mr & Mrs Leigh Block, Chicago (acquired by 1961)

Acquavella Galleries, New York

Private Collection (sold: Sotheby's, London, 26th March 1980, lot 34)

Private Collection (purchased at the above sale. Sold: Christie's, London, 25th June 1996, lot 51)

Purchased at  the above sale by the father of the present owner

Exhibited

Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Museum of Art (on loan)

Zurich, Kunsthaus, Chagall, 1967, no. 157

Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Hommage à Marc Chagall, 1967, no. 50 (titled La Ville bleue and as dating from 1953-59)

Literature

Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall. Life and Work, New York, 1961, no. 977, illustrated 

Giovanni Arpino, Marc Chagall, Milan, 1978, illustrated in colour p. 88 (as dating from 1959)

Catalogue Note

Le Village bleu incorporates many of Chagall’s most iconic motifs, making full play of his beguiling and deeply personal imagery. The bridal couple – recalling Chagall’s first wife, Bella – and the distinctive rooftops of Vitebsk, which are rendered in glorious detail, look back to the artist’s Russian origins. Both were an integral part of Chagall’s creative vocabulary; the rural life he experienced in Vitebsk and his love for Bella were the subject of his earliest forays into artistic expression and remained a mainstay of his personal symbolism. The whole composition is suffused with a soulful blue that emphasises this sense of reflection and nostalgia as well as indicating a nocturnal setting. At the same time, the richly impastoed bouquet of flowers and the vibrant colouring of the work are indicative of the contentment and stability he experienced following his return to France in 1947.

Colour was always central to Chagall’s art and it took on a new significance in the years after the Second World War when he settled in the small town of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Like many artists before him, he was captivated by the unique intensity of light and colour that he found on France’s Mediterranean coast. As he recalled: ‘As I got nearer to the Côte d’Azur, I experienced a feeling of regeneration, something I hadn’t felt since childhood. The smell of flowers, a sort of new energy poured through me […]. Near to Nice already, I felt that numerous artists had come here, that it was a place where it was possible to establish oneself, to set oneself up. In such a town, you could write music, poetry, paint pictures […]. It was here I stayed. Perhaps I am feeling the years, but anyway this place has become to me like my hometown Vitebsk. As if I was rejuvenated, and that I was waiting for something. And this flower-filled world coloured my new life’ (quoted in Marc Chagall. Rétrospective 1908-1985 (exhibition catalogue), Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, 2015, p. 48, translated from French).

This new optimism is captured by the vividly rendered bouquet of the present work. Flowers had a special significance for Chagall, as André Verdet explains: ‘Marc Chagall loved flowers. He delighted in their aroma, in contemplating their colors. For a long time, certainly after 1948 when he moved for good to the South of France after his wartime stay in the U.S., there were always flowers in his studio. In his work bouquets of flowers held a special place […]. Usually they created a sense of joy, but they could also reflect the melancholy of memories’ (A. Verdet quoted in Jacob Baal-Teshuva (ed.), Chagall: A Retrospective, Fairfield, 1995, p. 347). In Le Village bleu the exuberance of the flowers is tempered by the intimate portrait of the two lovers and the view of Vitebsk, creating a powerfully meditative work that balances tender reminiscences of the past with an eloquent hope for the future.

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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London