Marc Chagall, ‘Le bouquet rouge’, 1950, Richard Green Gallery

This rich and verdant flower piece centres upon a resplendent arrangement of Roses, dense with petals of deep cardinal red with touches of white and violet pastel, interspersed with constellations of small white and yellow dots, perhaps representing sprays of mimosa. Rising from a central vase of intense, transparent blue, Chagall’s exubrant flowers almost fill the canvas, the vibrant blooms bursting from their lush blue/green foliage, whose bold, fantastic forms entwine into opulent, intricate layers of texture and tone. The dense composition is fluently drawn in Indian ink, its undulating lines adding depth and detail to the interconnected elements.

Surrounding the extraordinary flowers is a beautiful dream-like, nocturnal scene. The luminous crescent moon in the top right corner brightens the dark blue sky, casting its light on the burgeoning vase of flowers and a luscious bowl of fruit. The voluptuous fruit and flowers, along with their vessels, set up a series of curves echoed in the circular table-top, the crescent moon and the shapely figure of a woman. To the left of the bountiful bouquet, the moonlight articulates the ethereal silhouettes of embracing lovers and at the top of the composition, a nightingale gazing at the moon. These bright, transparent forms float on the periphery like joyful, romantic memories inspired by the vivid red bouquet.

Chagall first painted bouquets of flowers in the early 1920s as a romantic extension of his symbolic vocabulary in representations of himself with his adored wife and muse, Bella Rosenfeld. Writing of their courtship in his autobiography, Chagall recollected, as if in explanation of the present work: ‘I only had to open my window, and blue air, love, and flowers

entered with her’. From this point onwards the vase of flowers became a perennial theme in his work, inextricably linked to the celebration and evocation of love. A vivid combination of memory, fantasy and association, Le bouquet rouge is an expression of pure creative joy and the vital brilliance of life itself.

Chagall returned to and settled in France in August 1948, staying first at Orgeval, near Saint-Germain-en-Laye, the Midi and then Saint-Jean Cap- Ferrat before moving to Vence in October 1949, rediscovering the natural beauty of French flowers. ‘It was in Toulon in 1924, Chagall recalls, that the charm of French flowers first struck him. He claims he had not known bouquets of flowers in Russia—or at least they were not so common as in France... He said that when he painted a bouquet it was as if he was painting a landscape. It represented France to him. But the discovery was also a logical one in the light of the change taking place in his vision and pictorial interests. Flowers, especially mixed bouquets of tiny blossoms, offer a variety of delicate color combinations and a fund of texture contrasts which were beginning to hold Chagall’s attention more and more.’

‘In conversation with the writer, poet and painter Andre Verdet, Chagall reminisced (in extreme old age) about the central significance of flowers in his life: ‘…you could wonder for ages about what flowers mean, but for me they’re life itself, in all its happy brilliance. We couldn’t do without flowers. Flowers help you forget life’s tragedies, but they can also mirror them…’

1 Marc Chagall cited in My Life, Peter Owen, London, 1965, p. 121. Chagall began writing in 1921-22. Mein Leben was originally published as a series of etchings in Germany in 1923. It was translated by Bella and published in French as Ma Vie in 1931.
2 Chagall bought and moved into a house called “Les Collines” on the slope of the Baou des Blancs between Vence and Saint-Jeannet in Spring 1950.
3 James Johnson Sweeney, Marc Chagall, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1946, p. 56.
4 Cited in Gill Polonsky, Chagall, Phaidon, 1998, London, p. 84).

Geneva, Musée Rath, Trésors des collections romandes, 23rd June – 3rd October 1954, no. 228

The Comité Marc Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this work and is recorded by them as No: 2015053.

Galerie Maeght, Paris
Monsieur G. Brazzola, Geneva, 1951, then by descent to
Private collection, Paris

About Marc Chagall

Honored for his distinct style and pioneering role among Jewish artists, Marc Chagall painted dream-like subjects rooted in personal history and Eastern European folklore. He worked in several mediums, including painting, printmaking, and book illustration, and his stained glass windows can be seen in New York, France, and Jerusalem. Chagall arrived in Paris in 1910 and began experimenting with Cubism, befriending painters Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger. Chagall’s style has been described as a hybrid of Cubism, Fauvism, and Symbolism, and his supernatural subjects are thought to have significantly influenced the Surrealists. Though he actively engaged in the Parisian artistic community, art for Chagall was first and foremost a means of personal expression. He preferred to be considered separately from other artists, his imagery and allegory uniquely his own.

Russian-French, 1887-1985, Vitebsk, Belarus