Pablo Picasso was once quoted as saying: “When Henri Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.”
He published his own catalog, titled Chagall by Chagall, in 1979, six years before his death at 97, and when you flip through the pages you instantly see the joy of color expressed in his paintings.
I noted recently that his work L’ile de Saint-Louis, executed primarily on a background of red gauche, was recently sold. It had been offered through M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans, represented by Phillip Youngberg, vice president of the gallery. Oh, how I wish it could have been mine, but its $2.65 million price tag, alas, put it a bit out of my budget.
While Chagall worked primarily in shades of blues, greens and purples — colors that exude calm and tranquility — L’ile de Saint-Louis is a striking contrast, its passionate red hue evoking feelings of love, from romantic love to love of family and love of places.
“I have always painted pictures,” Chagall once said, “where human love floods my colors.”
The scene depicted in the painting is Paris, a city Chagall adopted later in his life, and a young rooster at the right of the painting is said to symbolize his childhood home in Vitebsk, in current day Belarus.
But the painting was a love letter to Paris. In his book, Chagall chose this painting to illustrate his chapter on Paris. He reveals his great love for and happiness in the city and called Paris his second Vitebsk.
Chagall’s second wife, Valentina Brodsky, known as Vava, is featured in the painting, holding a flower bouquet, representing the artist’s thoughts of romantic love, while Chagall himself appears in the lower left of the canvas.
Chagall’s works have continued to grow in popularity over the years. Sales of his paintings often achieve record numbers — some in excess of $3 million — at auction.
How fortunate was the customer who purchased L’ile de Saint-Louis, which measures 19¾ inches high by 25⅛ inches wide, unframed. I hope the work brings them much joy.
To be an art collector is to be a treasure hunter, ready at any time for a precious jewel. L’ile de Saint-Louis may be gone — at least for now — but Youngberg might still have a few Norman Rockwells and a Mary Cassatt that he would be very happy to tell you about.
And, of course, those of us in Palm Beach known that fine art of every genre is available at the remarkable collection of galleries in town. You’ll find works by Chagall represented by Palm Beach dealers, as well.
In the meantime, I suggest you read up on Chagall and look through his catalogs so you can be ready for his next piece when it comes up for sale.