The subject of the circus first appeared in Chagall’s work in 1927 in a series of gouaches entitled Cirque Vollard, which were motivated by his visits to the Cirque d'Hiver in Paris with the publisher and art dealer Ambroise Vollard. An invitation to attend the shooting of a film in the Cirque d'Hiver in 1956 sparked another series of circus pictures that were executed with the vibrant colours and new luminosity that Chagall discovered in the Mediterranean at his Vence residence. Executed in 1966, the present work reflects Chagall’s continued enthusiasm for the spectacle of the circus: acrobats balance on beasts surrounded by tiers of spectators, and further performers – both human and animal – hover above the circus ring, acting simultaneously as subjects of the work as well as onlookers to the action below. The rhythm of the performance and exciting acrobatic feats are complimented by the bold, bright colours and unstructured composition of this whimsical, fantastical scene. Deux profils verts au cirque is a dynamic and thrilling example of the creative energy and sense of theatre that Chagall never ceased to find in the circus.
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