- Marc Chagall
- La Musique
- signed Marc Chagall (lower right); signed Marc Chagall on the reverse
- oil on canvas
- 130 by 80cm.
- 51 1/8 by 31 1/2 in.
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Marc Chagall, 1991, no. 91, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1962)
Commissioned as a companion-piece to La Danse (lot 10), La Musique explores a closely related theme. Writing about the present work, Susan Compton observed: 'While movement in Dance is conveyed by curving bands of blue, the sound in Music is suggested by the bursts of strong hues. An intense blue bathes the harpist and his singers; a deep red enfolds the magic cello player and his band; above them Chagall has imagined the boy Mozart, an infant prodigy in his velvet suit of green. Surprisingly, the fiddler, that favourite figure from the artist's Russian days, plays in a patch of gloomy black. Yet he is accompanied by a joyful angel whose expression defies the unexpected dark – by placing it in juxtaposition with his brighter palette, Chagall has, in fact, shown its positive role, for it matches the intensity of blue, red and green and also evokes the violin's sad tones' (S. Compton in Chagall (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 229).
Musicians were among Chagall's favourite subjects since the early days of his career. Most frequently, he returned to the theme of the violinist (fig. 1), a figure that in his mind belonged to the world of circus and street entertainment, and was a strong symbol of Russian rural life. In La Musique, the reference to Mozart and sheet music are among rare representations of classical music in Chagall's art. Compositionally, the present work is divided into two distinct areas: that of the numerous musicians and their instruments populating the lower half of the canvas, and that of the large, hovering figure holding the Mozart score above the lively orchestra. The canvas is further separated into distinct colour areas; however their distribution is whimsical, as its purpose is to animate the canvas, generating a palpable sense of energy and creating a visual equivalent of the abstract quality of music.
It is no coincidence that this work was painted during the same period as Chagall's experimentation with stained glass. This new medium brought around an increasing freedom in his use of colour, and these experiments bore fruit in the intensely coloured paintings of the 1960s and 1970s. 'Stained glass has allowed Chagall full rein for his pleasure in colour. His first experience of the special property of colour in this medium was as early as 1952, when he visited Chartres and made detailed studies of the medieval windows. As a result, colour flooded into his paintings' (ibid., p. 254). In La Musique, bold areas of primary tones lead the viewer's eye from one area to another, highlighting various figures within the composition, while at the same time grounding them firmly onto the two-dimensional picture plane.
Fig. 1, Marc Chagall, Le Violiniste, 1912-13, oil on canvas, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Fig. 2, Chagall in his studio in Les Collines, Vence, 1960. Archives of Marc & Ida Chagall, Paris