Lot 48
  • 48

Marc Chagall

2,500,000 - 3,500,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Marc Chagall
  • L'Arbre rouge
  • Signed Marc Chagall (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 51 1/4 by 37 3/4 in.
  • 130.2 by 95.8 cm


Marguerite & Aimé Maeght (acquired from the artist)

Sale: Sotheby's New York, May 17, 1990, lot 66

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)

Acquired from the above in 1993


Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Hommage à Marc Chagall, 1967, no. 80

Tokyo, Shinjuku, Grande Galerie Odakyu, Marc Chagall, 1982, no. 22, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Chagall, 1984-85, no. 72


Aimé Maeght, ed., Chagall, Paris, 1975, no. 104, illustrated p. 148

Catalogue Note

Chagall's jewel-toned composition from 1966 highlights the artist's ability to replicate the quality of radiance in his paintings.  Rich shades of sapphire blue and crimson had long been incorporated into his palette, but it was not until the 1960s that he began applying singular tones in large, isolated areas, calling to mind the appearance of stained glass.  Throughout the 1960s Chagall occupied himself with stained glass commissions for the windows of the Haddassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, the United Nations in New York and the Fraumünster Cathedral in Zurich, and the aesthetic of this fragile medium and its translucency had a profound impact on his painting.

The subject of this work derives from the rich cast of fantastical characters that populated Chagall's most ambitious compositions.  Here we see a Satyr and his lover beneath a flaming tree, evocative, perhaps, of the Biblical tree of Jesse or even Moses's burning bush.  While Chagall's paintings often incorporated religious iconography, he daringly re-appropriated these images for his own pictorial narratives, changing their significance and breathing new life into these age-old motifs.  The spectular red tree in the present work is an example of Chagall's conflation of still-life, narrative motifs, and landscape. 

Chagall resided in Saint-Paul-de Vence from 1950-1973 and sought to capture the splendor and luminosity of this Côte d'Azur town by experimenting with bold colors and unstructured compositions. According to Chagall's biographer Franz Meyer, "The light, the vegetation, the rhythm of life all contributed to the rise of a more relaxed airy, sensuous style in which the magic of colour dominates more and more with the passing years.  At Vence he witnessed the daily miracle of growth and blossoming in the mild, strong all-pervading light - an experience in which earth and matter had their place" (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, London, 1964, p. 519). 

L'Arbre rouge represents the artist's tranquil disposition and the beauty that he found in his surroundings and offers insight into his personal history.  Living in the South of France also had profound impact on Chagall's exploration of color in his paintings, as this region had also been the home of one of the greatest colorists of the 20th century, Henri Matisse.  In fact, Picasso, who lived nearby Chagall during these years, once told Françoise Gilot: "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" (F. Gilot, Life with Picasso, New York, 1989, p. 282).