Fête au Village, 1969
Centro Arte Internazionale, Milan.
Private Collection, Italy.
Private Collection, acquired from the above, 2016.
Fête au Village presents a number of Marc Chagall’s most significant themes: it is a rustic scene charged with music and vivid colour, suffused with an air of dream-like fantasy. In the foreground, a band of villagers painted in strong primary colours play folk music and dance, while beyond them a mythical creature and cartwheeling man fly off towards opposite corners of the picture. A cockerel makes its way across the scene in front of the dancing figures, while a group of miniature country cottages is situated just behind them; these two motifs, cockerel and cottage, are recurring features that invoke Chagall’s native Vitebsk. Created at the beginning of a period of intense reflection and retrospection for the artist, Fête au Village demonstrates the central importance of memory in Chagall’s mature art. Vitebsk offered a wellspring of inspiration, appearing in paintings throughout his life; he referred to it as ‘the soil that nourished the roots of my art’ (M. Chagall, quoted in quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, Marc Chagall: 1887 – 1985, Cologne, 2008, p. 19). Motifs such as these were highly-charged embodiments of the artist’s inner world and were deployed to create increasingly complex personal narratives. Discussing his use of these symbolic motifs, Chagall compared himself to a writer, explaining: ‘Poets always use the same letters, but out of them they constantly recreate different words’ (M. Chagall, quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, op. cit., p. 269).
While revisiting his earlier years in Vitebsk, the picture’s vibrant colours and reference to music also capture the joy of his new life in Saint-Paul-de-Vence with his second wife Valentina (Vava) Brodsky, whom he married in 1952. As Franz Meyer has written: ‘The light, the vegetation, the rhythm of life all contributed to the rise of a more relaxed airy, sensuous style in which the magic of colour dominates more and more with the passing years. At Vence he witnessed the daily miracle of growth and blossoming in the mild, strong all-pervading light – an experience in which earth and matter had their place’ (Marc Chagall, London, 1964, p. 519). The combination of the rustic and the ethereal, the colourful dynamism of the villagers and the immateriality of their environment, results in a whimsical, dream-like composition that becomes an expression of the artist’s internal universe. As Alexander Liberman wrote: ‘One must look at his paintings closely to experience their full power. After the impact of the overall effect, there is the joy of the close-up discover. Chagall understands this visual secret better than most painters; he draws our interest into a corner where minute details hold it, and when we tire of that, we rest, floating in a space of colour, until the eye lands on a new small island of quivering life’ (‘The Artist in His Studio’, 1958; in J. Baal-Teshuva, Chagall: A Retrospective, Fairfield, CT, 1995, p. 337).
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Comité Chagall dated 13 Dec. 2016 and numbered 2016119 P
Fête au Village, 1969