Nu au chapeau ou le faune signed and dated 'Marc Chagall/1956' (lower right) brush, Indian ink, wash and gouache on paper laid on board 64.7 x 50cm (25 1/2 x 19 11/16in). Executed in 1956
PROVENANCE Galerie Maeght, Paris. James Vigeveno Galleries, Ojai, California, (by 1957). Hammer Galleries, New York. Acquired from the above by the late owners, June 1961.
EXHIBITED The Pasendena Art Museum, Marc Chagall, Seventieth Anniversary Exhibition, May-July 1957, p.28, no.47.
This work is sold with a replacement photo-certificate of authenticity from the Comité Chagall dated, Paris, le 11 octobre 2011, no.2011068.
Chagall's works during the mid to late fifties illustrate an increase in luminosity which is simultaneously matched by a tendency towards monochromy. In many examples from these years, form and picture space is demarcated by a single colour. By heightening contrast, Chagall sought to distill and emphasise the 'elemental nature' of colour itself, and consequently to imbue the piece with 'life'. For Chagall, colour was the animating life-force of the picture, the 'pulse of the work of art' (M. Chagall quoted in 'Art and life: Lecture delivered at the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago, March 1958', in B. Harshav (ed.), Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, Stanford, 2003, p.136)
The liveliness of Nu au Chapeau is played out by the rhythmical line and immediacy of the handling. The continuous line of the inky brush strokes describes a scene of outlandish animals and figures suspended in a fantasy space above the world. This new manner of brush drawing, which began to be employed by Chagall during this time, enabled a creative immediacy from which the whims of imagination were seamlessly translated to the surface of the sheet. It was this use of 'abstract' colour to denote the motif which Chagall believed could transform the picture into the 'mirror of psychic and spiritual reality.' (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall: Life and work, New York, 1964, p.558)
Nu au Chapeau also recalls the black and white lithographs which Chagall first began to execute in 1951. Lithography proved a sympathetic medium for his spontaneous painterly style and these works, like Nu au Chapeau, are animated by a graphic colourfulness delineated by the dynamism and vitality of his brushwork.