Marc Chagall - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, November 14, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Denise René, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 1977-1978

  • Catalogue Essay

    Executed in 1955, Marc Chagall’s Vence ou Les amoureux à l'âne depicts a pair of lovers floating above a picturesque hilltop village bathed in the soft light of a burning red sun while the moon rises simultaneously from below. As titled, the setting is recognizable as the town of Vence, a distinct view that serves as the backdrop for a number of Chagall’s works from the mid-1950s during varying times of day, ranging from intimate nocturnal scenes to radiant Mediterranean light.

    Chagall moved to to Vence in 1950 and established the French town as his new home, purchasing “Les Collines”, a house with a studio annex, in the spring of that year. In his biography of the artist, Franz Meyer describes: “Since then virtually all Chagall’s pictures have been painted in the studio at “Les Collines.” The new environment is responsible not only for the view from his window on the little old walled town and the steeple of its medieval cathedral, which appears in so many of his pictures, but also for the novel charm of the painterly mood which embraces all things that grow and blossom” (Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, New York, 1964, p. 501). The Côte d'Azur attracted many creative types after World War II, with artists such as Picasso and Matisse settling in the region particularly between Nice and Cannes. Chagall was closely in touch with this Mediterranean artist colony, and a fresh creative energy can certainly be sensed in his works from this period.

    Soon after in 1952, Chagall married Valentine (Vava) Brodsky, following the tragic death of his beloved first wife, Bella. A serene sense of security and optimism is discernible in Vence ou Les amoureux à l'âne, reflecting the artist’s newfound stability in his personal life. The peaceful quality of the weightless lovers and the earthy tones of the town are contrasted with the flaming red sun and goat, which imbue the work with a passionate energy. Rendered in the artist’s characteristic dream-like fashion, Vence ou Les amoureux à l'âne is a sensitive homage to Chagall’s adopted hometown featuring his unique poetic imagery, which is praised by art historian Werner Haftmann: “It was Chagall’s own intuitive poetic capacity that made him one of the great image-makers of our century. It was not by chance that he turned most often to a medium like gouache in order to seize upon the salient features of that great flood of metaphorical images that welled up in him and to transport and transpose them into works of art to be shared with us” (Werner Haftmann, Marc Chagall: Gouaches, Drawings, Watercolors, New York, 1975, p. 153).

  • Artist Biography

    Marc Chagall

    Franco-Russian • 1887 - 1985

    Born Moishe Shagal in present-day Belarus, Marc Chagall (as he later became known) was one of the foremost Jewish artists of the 20th Century. He is perhaps best known for his inventive use of color and dream-like imagery, which anticipated Surrealism. His deeply religious upbringing influenced his work, as did the precarious political situation in Europe in the early 20th century. He first left the Russian Empire for France and Germany, but after returning to marry his wife, World War I prevented him from returning to France for over a decade. After the collapse of the French government during World War II, Chagall lived in New York until 1948. At that point, he returned permanently to France, which he considered his adopted homeland. 

    Chagall considered his style unique and actively resisted categorization. In Paris, he befriended Cubists like Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger, but he also integrated elements of Fauvism and Symbolism into his practice. Aside from painting, Chagall also experimented with printmaking and stained glass--his windows can still be found in New York, France and Israel today. The artist passed away in 1985, and his work continues to be held in the permanent collections of many internationally prestigious museums.

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Vence ou Les amoureux à l'âne

signed and dated "Marc Chagall 1955-56" lower right; further signed and inscribed "Paris Marc Chagall 1976" on the reverse
gouache, India ink wash and India ink on paper laid on canvas
25 1/2 x 18 7/8 in. (64.7 x 48 cm.)
Executed in 1955.

The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $262,500

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York Auction 15 November 2017