La Danse, 1976-77

by Marc Chagall

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 22.25 x 29.75 in./ 56.5 x 76.0 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed ‘Mark Chagall’ lower left
MEDIUM: Ink and Oil wash on paper

The theme of dance and the circus became one of Chagall’s favourite subjects during his early years in Paris, and remained so throughout his career. His experience and memory of clowns, acrobats and young ladies on horseback lay at the heart of this personal mythology. He joined a long and distinguished line of Impressionist and Modern painters who featured the dance and the circus in their work, including Degas, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Rouault, van Dongen and Léger.

Catalogue No: 4876 Categories: ,

As Picasso, another nonagenarian, did in his late works, Chagall created for himself a “theatre of memory” in which he continuously conjured up images from the past and revisited them in his paintings. In his finest and most vigorous late works the artists projects a preternaturally youthful persona, as he imagines and reconfigures memories in scenarios both old and new, while often adding novel and surprising elements. Utilizing numerous motifs culled from Chagall’s personal lexicon such as the donkey and the rooster, the artist has also added motifs from later on in his life. Chagall developed an abiding love for the beauty of the French landscape while he was painting the gouaches for Fontaine’s Fables in 1926-1927. Having lived in the Ile-de-France, the Auvergne and on the Mediterranean coast, sometimes away from Paris for weeks at a time, he found the pace of country living and indeed the people themselves very much to his liking. All these experiences were far removed from the more primitive conditions he had known growing up in Russia, where he was subject to a harsh and unrelenting tradition of anti-Semitism. “I threw myself at new themes I had never seen before in Vitebsk—the flowers in the south of France, the farm workers in Savoy, the well-fed animals. After the Revolution, the destitution and the hunger, I gave my appetite free reign. In all the fantastic things I saw, I could not forget the earth from which we come” (C. Sorlier, Marc Chagall et Ambroise Vollard, Paris, 1981, p. 24). Chagall has added those motifs of French country life with the addition of village houses in the far right corner and background, of chickens and other farmyard animals, and of country folk. Additionally, the use of a monochromatic, sombre colour palette and different media creates a dreamlike atmosphere to the scene. Painted towards the end of his life, Chagall in La Danse, 1967-1977, is a sentimental snapshot into his life.

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Paris, Galerie Maeght, Derrière le Mirroir, 1977, no.31;
Munich, Hause der Kunst, Ausgewählte Graphik, 1978, no. 63, illustrated in the catalogue

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