Lot 10
  • 10

Marc Chagall

Estimate
2,000,000 - 3,000,000 GBP
Sold
bidding is closed

Description

  • Marc Chagall
  • La Danse
  • signed Marc Chagall (lower left); signed Marc Chagall on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 130 by 80cm.
  • 51 1/8 by 31 1/2 in.

Provenance

Commissioned and acquired directly from the artist

Exhibited

London, Royal Academy of Arts & Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Chagall, 1985, no. 100, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1962-63)
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Marc Chagall, 1991, no. 90, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1962)

Catalogue Note

'Chagall wields his brush, loaded with colour, to create a shimmering background, ignoring conventions of shaping pictorial space: instead, he paints a magical, swirling composition of figures and colours which effectively matches the dance of life.'

Susan Compton, writing about the present work in Chagall (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts, London & Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, 1985

 

 

 

 

Performances of music, dance and the circus played an important role in Chagall's universe and provided an infinite source of inspiration for his painting. The theme was of great significance to him as a poetic, visionary experience – a transcendental parallel to real life which indulged his imagination and propensity towards pure, lyrical escapism. The joyous atmosphere and the sense of celebration inherent to this subject certainly appealed to the artist's colourful, life-affirming vision, and he translated this sense of energy and movement into bold, lively compositions such as La Danse.

 

The present composition is dominated by numerous figures of dancers, depicted in balletic costumes and rendered with variations in scale and disregard for rules of naturalism and perspective in painting. The artist's joy of creation and freedom of interpretation reflect his confidence in his style and technique and his deeply subjective approach to painting. With its fanciful, dream-like composition, the painting becomes an expression of the artist's internal and highly individual interpretation, rather than an objective depiction of a dancing performance. The idea of the image as a depiction of the artist's own fantasy is underlined by the figure of the painter by his easel at the lower right corner of the composition and surrounded by an orchestra. From this figure, a number of dancers twirl and leap across the canvas, forming an undulating line that echoes the rhythm of their dance.

 

Writing about the present work, Susan Compton compared it to Matisse's iconic rendering of the subject of dance, La Danse of 1909-10 (fig. 1): 'Chagall has imagined his dancers sur scène, not on the real boards like Degas, nor consigned to a hillock like Matisse. Though dressed as for a stage performance, they disport themselves across a canvas, freed of the limitations of gravity and the rules of perspective. His figures express that joy in movement which is the prerogative of dancers; they suggest classical choreography with its rhythmic coordination. Those few who are restricted to a chorus line are encouraged by an angel, who, at the top of the canvas, pushes them forwards. Their leader is greeted by an artist, who joins them from the side with an ecstatic leap [...]. In front of these figures, pairs of dancers finish their solos, catching a spotlight – the green and yellow area – which draws attention to them. In the foreground a group of musicians make surprising music, for their instruments are those which Chagall uses in his circus paintings – and, in the bottom right, he can be seen himself, not as a conductor, but in front of his easel, as creator of this arcadian scene' (S. Compton in Chagall (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., pp. 228-229).

 

Comparing the luminosity of the present work with Chagall's work in stained glass, Compton further observed: '[W]hile the essence of stained glass is the light shining through the window, allowing the figures a continually changing coloured light, on a canvas the artist must rely on the constant refraction of light in the pigment. So with a mastery born of years of experience, as well as a remarkable gift, Chagall wields his brush, loaded with colour, to create a shimmering background, ignoring conventions of shaping pictorial space: instead, he paints a magical, swirling composition of figures and colours which effectively matches the dance of life' (ibid., p. 229).

 

 

 

Fig. 1, Henri Matisse, La Danse, 1909-10, oil on canvas, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Fig. 2, Marc Chagall, Le Grand cirque, 1956, oil and gouache on canvas. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 8th May 2007

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