- Marc Chagall
- Crépuscule ou la maison rouge
- Signed Marc Chagall and dated 1948 (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
Acquired from the above in October 1949
Suffused with an intense fiery red throughout, Maison rouge is a striking amalgamation of these twin influences. The rambling streets and rooftops—specifically recalling the architecture of Vitebsk—form an evocative backdrop to the central figures of the bride and groom and their violin-playing companion. The eponymous red house of the present work is a direct reference to the house in which Chagall was born, a recurring feature of Chagall’s early work and a powerful iconographic tool in his oeuvre. It was the subject of a number of paintings from his time in Russia, both as the central motif and as part of a wider setting, but it took on a new significance in his work following his departure from Russia and now, in the wake of the town’s most recent devastation. Compton suggests that the vibrant red with which Chagall so frequently depicted his childhood home was inspired by the fire which ravaged Vitebsk on 24th June 1887, only two weeks before Chagall was born. In the present work, it might also have been an over-riding sense of nostalgia for his childhood home.
When Chagall was asked to describe the important meetings of his life he replied in characteristically whimsical fashion, ‘When I opened my eyes for the first time in my life I met a whole world, the town, the house, which little by little became fixed in me for always. Later I met a woman’ (quoted in ibid., p. 11). The woman in question was his childhood love and first wife Bella. From the very first, images of her as the archetypal beloved are associated with depictions that recall Vitebsk and both would become symbolic figures that recalled the early years of the artist’s experience. It is the prominence of both Bella and the house in the present work combined with the artist’s innovative use of color and the altered dreamscape perspective that marks out Maison rouge as such an important example of Chagall’s post-war work.
The present painting was the first work that Jerome Stone acquired for his collection. In 1949, Stone made his first visit to the gallery of Chagall's dealer Pierre Matisse in New York. The two men struck a favorable deal that awarded Stone this picture and Matisse Stone's unwavering confidence. Stone went on to forge a close relationship with Matisse and, through the dealer's intervention, made the acquaintance of Chagall and his wife Vava several years later.