Profil du peintre
was made during Chagall's later years in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, the town where Chagall settled permanently after many years spent in exile, moving from Russia to France and the United States. Profil du peintre
was painted in 1982, in an era when the artist, while nostalgic for his youth, was celebrating the joyous, peaceful life he led in Saint-Paul-de-Vence with his second wife Vava. At the age of 95 years, and as a widely acclaimed and highly sought after artist, Chagall could reflect on his entire oeuvre in total peace. Chagall conceived much of his later work as a return to his beginnings — the spark of first love and childhood, while paying attention to the fleeting sadness of transience and loss. Profil du peintre
contains several of Chagall's favourite themes and motifs. Here, Chagall rigorously pursues the figure of the self-portrait. Dominating the composition, in a red sky, the white face of the floating artist merges, like a two-headed being, with the image of Bella, his first, late wife, as the celestial Bride, symbolically embodying the women who went on to share the artist's life after her. The lovers — she, the woman, and he, the male artist — are recurring figures in Chagall's fantastical art. In contrast to the couple, the rooster, also a frequent occurrence in his work and a symbol of virility, dazzles through its two splashes of red. The artist asserts his identity as a painter with a large white palette, reminiscent of the colour of his face, which is suspended in the centre of the work. Chagall defines himself as both a painter and a lover.
The couple stands on the rooftops of a blue city, a familiar landscape in Chagall's native Vitebsk, where the artist's childhood home — which was previously represented in La Maison Rouge (1955, Hanover Sprengel Museum) — is distinguished by the visual power of its construction, as well as by the radiance of the colour red. A cornerstone of his personal symbolism, this setting and this house enriched his innermost world until the very end. Russia remained a central concern, especially following Chagall's visit in 1971 after an absence of over fifty years.
The solid red of the sky illuminates the blue pigment, enveloping the ethereal scene, punctuated by two brushstrokes and inspired by the sea and the sky of Saint-Paul-de-Vence.