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Lot 514: MARC CHAGALL
Impressionist and Modern Art, Part Two
May 9, 2001
New York, NY, USA
LE SALTIMBANQUE ET LE CLOWN
Signed and dated 1979
Oil on canvas
39 1/2 by 32 in. 100.3 by 81.3 cm.
Painted in 1979.
The Comite Marc Chagall has kindly confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Galerie Maeght, Paris
Sale: Sotheby's, London, June 26, 1990, Lot 66
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Chagall, October, 1979, no. 18
Derriere le Miroir, October, 1979, no. 18, illustrated p. 31
The theme of the circus is prevelant in much of Chagall's oeuvre, dating back to a 1927 series of gouaches known as the Cirque Vollard, related to the evenings the artist spent with Ambroise Vollard at the Cirque d'Hiver. However, the artist himself has pointed to an earlier encounter with the circus in Vitebsk when he watched a group of circus performers in the street with a crowd of three or four spectators. He writes "These clowns, these riders, these acrobats have taken up residence in my visions. Why? Why am I moved by their makeup and expressions? With them I approach other horizons. Their colors and makeup draw me toward other psychic distortions that I long to paint" (Charles Sorlier, Chagall by Chagall, New York, 1979, p. 172).
In Le Saltimbanque et le Clown, the acrobat and clown perform in a Russian village, reminiscent of Chagall's earlier depictions of his home town of Vitebsk. Within this setting Chagall incorporates many other elements characteristic of his previous oeuvre: the clown holds a bouquet of flowers, couples stroll down the street and float overhead, a rooster and goat are included in the composition, as well as various peasant figures which populate the scene at left. Typical of Chagall's later work, the artist employs a reduced range of colors. Greys and whites are complemented by areas of blue, orange, red, green and pink pigment which are then painted over with small defining brushstrokes. As the acrobat raises his hands up, our eyes are drawn toward the town which recedes into the backround, creating a unique but effective sense of perspective. "His scene defies all laws of gravity, yet it can be read sequentially, almost as easily as if it followed the classical rules of perspective" (Susan Compton, Chagall, (exhibition catalogue), Royal Acadamy of Arts, London, 1985, p. 244).