Marc CHAGALL (1887-1985) Le Christ au village, 1966 Monotype printed in colors on Japan paper Signed in black ink Provenance: Editions Gérald Cramer, Geneva, archive number 1979.631 Exhibition History: The Museum of Modern Art, “Chagall: Prints, Monotypes, Illustrated Books” November 22, 1979–January 28, 1980 Cramer no. 197 30 1/4 x 22 3/4 in. Framed dimensions: 40 5/8 x 36 3/8 in. 914015 $178,000
A rare and unique work with strong coloring, showcasing Chagall’s mastery of color as well as the monotype medium. “Le Christ au Village” contains many of the personal and religious symbols and images prevalent in much of his work. Chagall’s Jewish identity was important to him throughout his life, and much of his work can be described as an attempt to reconcile old Jewish traditions with styles of modernist art. However, he also occasionally drew on Christian themes, which appealed to his penchant for narrative and allegorical themes. In this work, one can identify the crucifixion of Jesus, which Chagall corresponds with the Holocaust, and Jews being persecuted by the Nazis. The small houses are representative of Vitebsk, and his fond memories of his homeland. Also, the artist himself is portrayed in the foreground, moving across the composition. After a trial in 1961, Chagall became passionate about monotype and his process, achieving some of his best results between 1962 and 1975. A monotype is a hand-pulled print from an original drawing or painting, created by inking an entire surface like metal, copper or zinc plate; even Plexiglas or glass could be used. The image was then transferred to paper using a printmaking press. The paper had to absorb all of the ink in order to realize only one print at a time. Even though a monotype is a pulled print, it is an original, never a reproduction. Each time a new print was desired, the colors had to be added to plate again. Therefore, every monotype was completely unique. Most major artists working in monotypes in the 20th century used only black ink, although the technique was one in which color could be brilliantly utilized, as shown in the present work. It was an ideal medium for a painter who could work rapidly and directly, without erasures or overpaintings. Speed was important since the oil paint, directly brushed onto a gleaming plate, must remain liquid enough to be transferred entirely to paper during the printing. The luminosity of the color, which remains thin and translucent, is the most characteristic quality of color monotypes, and this is a consistent achievement in the works of Chagall. Throughout his career, during which he produced an astounding 10,000 works, Chagall continued to incor- porate figurative and narrative elements into his artworks. His pictorial universe, full of personal metaphor, set him apart from much of 20th century art.
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