Executed in 1953, La Place Du Tertre
depicts a famous square in the heart of Montmartre that is imbued with a sense of magic and the fantastical through Marc Chagall’s vibrant use of colour and dream-like motifs. Although he had settled in Vence by this time, Paris continued to remain an important reference in Chagall’s post-war works. Central to the rhythmic composition within the present work is a floating female form with anthropomorphic features. Alluding to his childhood home of Vitebsk, this state of metamorphosis can be seen as an extension of his series of Fables based on La Fontaine’s tales and published the previous year. Combining the influences of his Slavic folk spirit from his rural Russian upbringing and his new home in France, this pictorial world is one of mystic fantasy and nostalgic magic. Whimsical motifs are juxtaposed in ambiguous spatial relations, where an enigmatic topography emphasises the dream-like nature of the work. An inverted tree appears parallel to another organic element, highlighting Chagall’s spiritual connection with the cyclic destiny of nature. The vibrant palette is dominated by swaths of passionate red, whilst touches of white and yellow convey a moonlit luminosity.
An underlying sentiment in Chagall’s œuvre is the intimate parallel with art and life, as the artist said: ‘In life, just as on the artist’s palette, there is but one single color that gives meaning to life and art – the color of love’ (quoted in Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Chagall, Cologne, 1998, p. 10). The theme of the lovers, an important motif within Chagall’s work, represents his renewed romanticism and stability with his new wife Valentina Brodsky, or “Vava”, after the death of his beloved first wife Bella and the traumatic devastation of the war. Ultimately, La Place Du Tertre underlines the true essence of the artist’s production with fantastic motifs and an enchanting atmosphere.