Hommage au Passé ou la Ville by MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985)

Oil on canvas
71.3 x 75.9 cm (28 ¹/₈ x 29 ⁷/₈ inches)
Signed and dated lower right, Marc Chagall 944
Executed in 1944

Provenance
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1948
Dr J.J. Mayers, New
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Marc Chagall
Hommage au Passé ou la Ville by Marc Chagall - School of Paris, Modern Art

1944

About

Hommage au Passé ou la Ville by MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985) Oil on canvas 71.3 x 75.9 cm (28 ¹/₈ x 29 ⁷/₈ inches) Signed and dated lower right, Marc Chagall 944 Executed in 1944 Provenance Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York, by 1948 Dr J.J. Mayers, New York Van Diemen-Lilienfeld Galleries, New York Feigl Gallery, New York The Frederick & Helen Serger Collection, New York, by 1954 Mr & Mrs Ludwig Neugass, New York, by 1956 until at least 1965 Private collection, Australia, by 1986 Private Collection, UK, by 2012 Private Collection, London, acquired from the above Literature Raïssa Maritain, Chagall ou l'Orage Enchanté, Geneva & Paris, 1948, p. 154 (the earlier state illustrated; titled 'La Ville') Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall: Life and Work, New York, 1964, no. 736, pp. 452 & 758 (illustrated n.p.; titled 'La Ville') Jean Cassou, Chagall, London, 1965, no. 115, p. 280 (illustrated fig. 115, n.p.; titled 'Homage to the Past') Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Marc Chagall, 1887-1985, Cologne, 2008, p. 169 (illustrated) Exhibitions New York, Perls Galleries, Marc Chagall, 12th March - 14th April 1956, no. 15, n.p. Tokyo, Musée National d'Art Occidental, Marc Chagall, October - November 1963, no. 69, p. 92 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, Musée Municipal de Kyoto, November - December 1963 This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Marc Chagall. Chagall’s Hommage au passé, also recorded as The Town, is a deeply moving and personal painting. The painting shows an artist, presumably Chagall, painting at an easel on the left hand side of the canvas. He is shown with his head turned back contemplating his memories of his Russian hometown of Vitebsk and his beloved wife Bella who died in 1944, when the painting was signed and when the mourning figure at a tombstone was added. The painting is almost entirely rendered in different shades of blue. This nocturnal setting heightens the dream-like nature of the image, which is further reiterated by the characters suspended in mid-air and phantom apparitions. Although Chagall signed Hommage au passé in 1944, it was the product of a long and drawn-out process. According to his son-in-law Franz Meyer, Chagall may have started painting it while still in France during WWII, but revisited the painting after his move to New York, and again after Bella’s death in 1944. This series of evolutions therefore make the painting a revealing insight into the artist’s own journey and personal experience, transforming it into a sort of visual diary. In 1941 Chagall finally decided to escape Vichy France and he accepted an invitation from the Museum of Modern Art in New York to travel across the Atlantic. The artist lived with his family in New York before settling in Cranberry Lake in the Arirondacks in upstate New York. It was there that he may have returned to the painting of Hommage au passé. Fond memories of his hometown of Vitebsk may have been aroused by his time spent among the Jewish community in New York. The familiar sounds of Yiddish in the streets of New York, the delis bursting with traditional Jewish food, as well as conversations with local people about the atrocities committed against the Jewish communities in Russia under German invasion may have prompted him to depict Vitebsk in this painting, as if to memorialise it before it disappears. Hommage au passé is dominated by a large profile of Chagall’s adored wife Bella. The artist at his canvas and his ethereal muse are locked in an ever-lasting gaze. Bella’s death in 1944 had a cataclysmic effect on Chagall and consequently his art. He later wrote: “When Bella departed from the world, all was darkness.” After September 1944, Chagall moved into his daughter’s flat in New York, during which time he abandoned painting and symbolically turned his canvases to face the wall. When Chagall resumed painting the following spring, he added the mourning figure embracing a tombstone to the top right-hand corner of the painting. In this period, Chagall also decided to paint over portraits of other figures that he had previously included in the painting. Their removal only highlights the importance of the relationship between the artist and his muse. Hommage au passé is therefore a romantic tribute to his companion and great love of thirty years and a farewell to the woman who he met and fell in love with in his youth in Vitebsk.

Details

  • Condition
    Fair
  • Dimensions
    H 28.08 in. x W 29.89 in.H 71.3 cm x W 75.9 cm
  • Gallery Location
    London, GB
  • Reference Number
    LU26124278512
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About Marc Chagall (Artist)

Described by art critic Robert Hughes as "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century," the Russian-French modernist Marc Chagall worked in nearly every artistic medium. Influenced by Symbolism, Fauvism, Cubism and Surrealism, he developed his own, distinctive style, combining avant-garde techniques and motifs with elements drawn from Eastern European Jewish folk art.


Born Moishe Segal in 1887, in Belarus (then part of the Russian empire), Chagall is often celebrated for his figurative paintings, but he also produced stained-glass windows for the cathedrals of Reims and Metz, in France; for the United Nations, in New York; and for the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, as well as book illustrations, stage sets, ceramics, tapestries and fine-art prints. Characterized by a bold color palette and whimsical imagery, his works are often narrative, depicting small-village scenes and quotidian moments of peasant life, as in his late painting The Flight into Egypt, from 1980.


Before World War I, Chagall traveled between St. Petersburg, Paris and Berlin. When the conflict broke out, he returned to Soviet-occupied Belarus, where he founded the Vitebsk Arts College before leaving again for Paris in 1922. He fled to the United States during World War II but in 1947 returned to France, where he spent the rest of his life. His peripatetic career left its mark on his style, which was distinctly international, incorporating elements from each of the cultures he experienced. Marc Chagall remains one of the past century’s most respected talents.

About the Seller

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Located in London, GB
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