- Marc Chagall
- signed Marc Chagall (lower right)
- oil, gouache and ink on canvas
- 93 by 65.5cm.
- 36 5/8 by 25 3/4 in.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1980s
The subject of colourful bouquets of flowers fascinated Chagall since the late 1920s, and was endlessly explored throughout his artistic career. The artist was first struck by the charm of flowers in Toulon in 1924; he later claimed that he had not known of flowers in Russia, and they came to represent France for him. In his dream-like paintings, he consistently drew from a vocabulary of personal symbolism: when painting a bouquet, it was like painting a landscape of his adopted country. Writing about the subject of flowers in Chagall's work, Franz Meyer commented: 'Many are simple still-lifes with a bunch of red roses and white lilacs; in others, pairs of lovers and air-borne fiddlers gambol through space. The atmosphere encompasses and pervades the flowers like a magically light airy fluid, vibrant with their vitality' (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall. Life and Work, New York, 1961, p. 369).
In the present work, the bouquet of flowers rises above a village reminiscent of the artist's native Vitebsk, populated by villagers and animals. Rather than representing a rational arrangement of different elements within the space of the painting, Les Tournesols is a compilation of the artist's favourite subjects, connected by an internal, almost surrealist principle, rather than by a logical spatial relationship. This abandon to the joy of creation and the artistic freedom of interpretation reflect Chagall's confidence in his style and technique and his deeply individual and subjective approach to painting. With its fantastical, dream-like composition, the painting becomes an expression of the artist's internal feelings and souvenirs rather than an objective projection of the outside world.