Lot 369
  • 369

Marc Chagall

600,000 - 800,000 USD
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  • Marc Chagall
  • Fleurs
  • Signed Chagall and dated 1911 (lower left)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 26 1/4 by 22 1/2 in.
  • 66.6 by 57.1 cm


Private Collection, Chicago
Thence by descent


Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, New York, 1963, no. 47, illustrated n.p.


The canvas has been relined. There is some rubbing to the pigment and minor paint loss to the center of the top edge. There is light craquelure to the blue and white tones of the lower left quadrant. There is a scratch to the surface of the paint which has been repaired and is still visible, located to the lower left corner of the vase and approximately 2.5 in. in length. When examined under UV light the old varnish impedes any further reading. The surface would benefit from a light clean. The work is in overall good condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

This important oil dates from 1911, unquestionably the most desirable period for the artist. Having left Vitebsk in 1910, Chagall traveled via St. Petersburg to Paris. Speaking no French and with only few Russian contacts in the city, Chagall immediately felt home-sick for his native land. His slightly anachronistic view of his first days in the city were most likely colored by the subsequent four years spent living and working in Paris alongside artists such as Paul Klee, August Macke and Robert Delauney. It was during this period that Chagall executed his most technically important works,the present picture included, while developing what would become his most signature visual language. 

Within a day of his arrival in Paris Chagall visited the Salon des Indépendants and immersed himself in the work of the Fauves and Cubists. Paintings by Derain, Léger, Matisse and Picasso hung alongside one another demonstrating to Chagall the groundbreaking possibilities present in the Parisian art world. Chagall soon found lodging in the La Rûche studios where he worked and lived next door to Amadeo Modigliani and Chaim Soutine. La Rûche served as a melting pot for artists, poets and writers drawn to Paris from all over Europe. The eclectic atmosphere, where artists lived in a semi-poverty stricken ideal, was best descibed by Chagall in his own words, “the studio has not been cleaned for a week. Stretchers, eggshells, empty soup tins lie around in a mess… On the floor reproductions of El Greco and Cézanne lie cheek by jowl with the remains of a herring, which I had cut in two, the head for the first day, the tail for the next, and—thank God—crusts of bread… While in the Russian studios a slighted model can be heard sobbing, from the ateliers of the Italians comes the sound of guitars and singing, and from the Jews heated discussions. Meanwhile I am quite alone in my studio, working by my petrol lamp, surrounded by pictures painted not onto canvases, but rather onto tablecloths or my bedsheets or my shirts, which I have cut up. Two, three o’clock in the morning. The sky is blue—it is getting light. Somewhere they are slaughtering cattle, the cows are lowing, and I paint them” (quoted in Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Marc Chagall, 1887-1985, Cologne, 1998, p. 41).

Displaying a symphony of vibrant colors floating in a dark blue backround, Fleurs demonstrates Chagall’s lifelong exploration of classical painting viewed through the lense of his unique, mystical impression of the world. The use of floating imagery suspended in rich monochrome landscapes would be a recurrent theme throughout Chagall’s long career, framing his work within a playful and naïve sensibility. However, Chagall’s use of vibrant colors bursting from the vase in Fleurs displays his burgeoning knowledge of the Fauves and the indelible impression Paris left on his practice.