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Last updated: 2/03/2017
Marc Chagall as Printmaker: Drypoints, etchings, and lithographs 1923-1984
One of our ways of surviving winter is looking at lots of works by Marc Chagall, whose black and white work allows us to marvel at his poetic vision of life and whose works in color cheer our spirits and replenish our faith in the coming of spring and new life after the gloom of winter. Our winter show this year will feature about 160 of Chagall's images drawn from our inventory of over 250 different Chagall works.
One of the most dominant artists of the 20th century, Chagall attempted to reshape the way we see and are seen. From his earliest paintings, depicting the ghettoized Russian Jews in their small villages not as prisoners but as free to explore the unknown world of their fantastic visions, to his last works, which meditate on the mysteries of love, artistic creation, and the joys of life, Chagall demonstrates the triumph of the imagination and celebrates its ability to free us from the constraints of daily life. Our current show will feature about 160 original etchings and lithographs dating from the time of Chagall’s return from the Soviet Union in 1922 to those executed close to the end of his extremely long and productive life. We feature a group of his early black and white etchings done at the instigation of Ambroise Vollard for Les Ames Mortes / The Dead Souls and The Fables, executed and printed in Paris from 1923 to 1927 for The Dead Souls (including one extremely rare hand-signed trial proof for one of The Dead Souls scenes) and between 1927-1930 for The Fables (including three hand-painted by Chagall) . In these works, Chagall says both farewell to Russia and hello to the technique of etching; the works vary between the loving if bittersweet emotions of his departure and his joyous discovery of his new medium. We are showing for the first time eleven 1948 etchings printed at the begining of each chapter of The Dead Souls; these pieces, published in an edition of only 368 impressions, will be offered at the special introductory price of $1000 each until January 1, 2009. We are also including in the show the last page of the table of etchings from Les Ames Mortes which features a scene of Gogol reading a book while Chagall works at an easel on a portrait of Vollard, who commissioned the project but did not live to see it published for the first and only time in 1948. The show includes 36 of the etchings for The Dead Souls and 12 of The Fables, three of which were hand-painted by Chagall (edition 85) and one signed etching (edition 100) as well as 8 of the regular edition of two hundred which were neither signed nor hand-colored, 5 large-format color etchings done in 1957 for De Mauvais Sujets, and three larger-format pieces from later portfolios. The show also features groups of works illustrating the circus, his love affairs with Paris (including some lithographs he made in the 1952 and 1953 after his return from the U.S.), with lovers and artists, musicians, and dancers. Works dealing with Biblical themes represent a large portion of Chagall's oeuvre, and this year we will include 56 of them ranging from the etchings he did between 1930 to 1939 for Ambroise Vollard's proposed Biblemost printed in 1939 (including one gouache Chagall painted on one of the etchings as he worked out the color scheme for the hand-colored impressions to be included in the deluxe suite of etchings for the Bible; we also have available for viewing a few others which we could not fit onto the walls) but not published until 1956 after Chagall's flight from Europe and his postwar return; some completed and printed between 1952 and 1956. Also featured are selections from his sets of briliantly colored lithographs for Verve in 1956 and 1960 (others not on the wall will be available for viewing), 8 works from his portfolio of large-format lithographs on the theme of the Exodus, and several out-of-series works). We will also be showing for the first time two tampon sec scratch lithographs published in an edition of 10 signed and numbered impressions plus several signed HC impressions, two of which are included in our show. Not included in the show but available for viewing are the complete set of five etchings done in 1926-27 for Maternité as well as four of the etchings done in 1977 to accompany a volume of writings on the Spanish Civil War by his friend, Nobel-Prize winner André Malroux, several additional etchings for the Bible and lithographs for the Bible, the complete set of color lithographs after Chagall's final designs for the stained-glass windows in Jerusalem featuring the twelve tribes of Israel, and many other lithographs done between 1956 and 1981.
Pour Vava / For Vava: The Artist at the Easel (Cramer 1992). Original tampon sec or scratch lithograph, 1984. This late work is part of a love note from Chagall to his wife, Vava (Valentina ). Edition: 10 signed and numbered impressions. Chagall coated a stone with black lithographic ink, scatched a drawing into the ink with a sharp-pointed stylus, laid the paper face-down upon the stone and rubbed the reverse until the ink transferred to the paper (see William M. Ivins, Jr. How Prints Look (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958, p. 17) This work was shown in Nice in a celebration of Chagall's long collaboration with Gerald Cramer (see Patrick Cramer, Marc ChagallGerald Cramer, Trente ans de travail et d'amitie [Geneve: Galerie patrick Cramer, 1994], p. 35, n. 142). Our impression is a signed artist's proof showing the artistclearly Chagallturning away from his easel, where he has just completed a portrait of himself with Vava against the backdrop of Nice. Very rare! Image size: 240x177mm. Price: $12,500.
Petrouchka retires les bottes / Petrochka removes Tchitchikov's boots (Sorlier 68, Hannover 108). Original etching, 1923-27. 335 impressions signed in the plate + 33 HC. No hand-signed impressions exist from the published edition. Ours is a very rare (if not unique) pencil-signed trial proof labeled "Essai" lower left. After this proof, Chagall added more hatching to Petrochka's chest and hair, Tchitchikov's back and boots, and the area of floor by Petrouchka's foot. There is a full-page ilustration of the final version in Sorlier's Marc Chagall and Ambroise Vollard. A very crisp and sharp impression. Image size: 277x220mm. Price: $9500.
Le chat et les deux Moineaux / The cat and the two sparrows (H. 243, S. 191). Original etching, 1927-30. 100 pencil signed impressions (of which this is one), 85 hand-colored impressions, and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. This image occurs as plate 97 in the Fables. The Fable concerns a cat and a sparrow whohave been brought up together and become friends. They play with each other and scuffle playfully at times, but the cat always keeps his claws in. One day a strange sparrow flies in and assaults the cat's friend. The cat, defending the honor of his sparrow, proceeds to kill and eat the stranger. However, having tasted sparrow tartare, so to speak, his friend soon follws the stranger down the cat's throat as he reflects, "The world is right! / A bird is certainly a bite upon which to gloat." The poet offers the dedicatee, the Duke of Burgundy, the opportunity to draw his own moral from this fable: "What moral can I deduce from what has just been said? / Fables aren't fables if not brought to a head. I seem to detect outlines which escape me; no use; / Conundrums are for you, not for my groping muse." Since the Duke does not reply, it is up to readers to supply the missing moral, which probably warns that it is not wise to keep your friends too close if they might suddenly turn and devour you. A very strong impression; slight discoloration outside the platemark. Image size: 299x237mm. Price: $9500.
Les deux Taureaux et une Grenouille / The two bulls and a frog (H. 160, S. 106). Original etching with hand coloring by Chagall, 1927-30. Plate 14 of The Fables of La Fontaine, commissioned by Vollard after Chagall completed the etchings for Dead Souls. 100 pencil signed impressions, 85 impressions hand-colored by Chagall (of which ours is one), and 240 impressions (of which 40 are on japon paper) signed in the plate for The Fables of La Fontaine. Two bulls contend for the rule of a herd ("and a heifer within the herd." A frog, sighing is asked by another why he sighs. The frog replies that the loser, "banned from his estate— / Those magnificent flower-dotted meadows we see— / And maim us with clumsy feet however deep we go." In the event the frog is right: "One of the bulls retired to the shore / Where the frogs were mangled by his weight / As hourly he trod on twenty or more." The moral? "From the first it has been so—how unfortunate! / The weak must suffer for the follies of the great" (Marianne Moore, trans.). Image size: 296x241mm. Price: $6500.
The Creation of Man (Hannover 276, Sorlier 199) Original etching, 1931-39; printed 1939. 100 signed and numbered hand-colored proofs plus 295 black and white impressions signed in the plate, of which this is one. Illustrated in Nice 1976 and 1987, Stuttgart 1985, and BN 1970). One of the most powerful of Chagall's Bible etchings hdre in a brilliant impressions. Plate 1 of his etchings for the Bible (published 1956). Image size: 306x228mm. Price: $6000.
Moses and Aaron before Pharoah (H. 305, S. 228). Original monoprint with extensive hand coloring on top of an etching, 1931-39. Ours is a unique hand-painted trial proof before the edition of the hand-colored etching. In this proof, most of the colors that will be used in the final version are present, but they are not applied in the same places. For the finished print, there were 100 signed and numbered hand-colored proofs plus 295 black and white impressions signed in the plate. Image size: 288x225mm. Price: $15,000.
David Mourning Absalom (M. 134). Original color lithograph, 1956. 75 signed and numbered impressions plus 6500 unsigned impressions as ours. Illustrated in the catalogue for the 1973 Musee National Message Biblique Marc Chagall inauguration. Image size: 355x260mm. Price: $2850.
Paradise (M. 233). Original color lithograph, 1960. 50 signed and numbered impressions plus 6500 unsigned impressions for Verve. Ours is a very fresh proof before trimming to fit into the bound volume. Outside the margins are the marks to the printers indicating where the page is to be trimmed. Needless to say, when matted, these marks do not show. Image size: 370x270mm. Price: $2750.
Also available: One of the 6500 unsigned impressions for the regular edition published in Verve. Image size: 356x253mm. Price: $2250.
The tree of Jesse (M. 297). Original color lithograph, 1960. 90 signed & numbered impressions + c. 1500 unsigned impressions. Executed the same year as Chagall's suite of color lithographs for the Bible, this rare night scene glows with brilliant colors not seen much after this date, as Chagall's palate went pastel. Hard to find! Image size: 320x250mm. Price: $1,950.
Moses calls the waters down upon the Egyptian army (M. 452). Original color lithograph, 1966. 250 impressions on Arches for the deluxe portfolio, The Story of Exodus plus 20 on japon and 15 HC. Ours is an impression on Arches. In the foreground, an angel holds a scroll up for the pursuing Egyptians to read before their destruction by the waters of the Red Sea. Image size: 505x370mm. Price: $5250.
Romeo and Juliet (Sorlier p. 96). Color lithograph by Charles Sorlier after Chagall's preliminary model for the Paris Opera House ceiling, 1964. 200 impressions on Arches paper without poster text signed and numbered by Chagall plus 5000 impressions with text commissioned by the Office of French Tourism. Chagall supervised the production of this work; one of the signed impressions sold at auction in 2006 for $31,000. A very fine impression with strong colors of this large and beautiful lithograph. Image size: 650x1010mm (25-1/2x39-3/4 inches). Price: SOLD.
Paysage au coq / Landscape with rooster (M. 208). Original color lithograph, 1958. 100 signed & numbered proofs plus c. 2000 unsigned proofs as published in the deluxe art review, Derrière le Miroir in 1958 (of which ours is one). One of Chagall's most important lithographs, it depicts a marriage scene and its aftermath. In the top center, we see a bride in wedding dress, her veil lifted off her face, standing under the traditional wedding canopy; in the forground, we see the celebration of the wedding, the coq, a bouquet of flowers in his tail, has planted himself "right in the middest" of the Paradisal garden of his spouse's body. Illustrated Nice 1987. Image size: 380x560mm. Price: $3250.
Sur la terre des dieux / On the gods' earth II: Cupid and Psyche (M. 530). Original color lithograph, 1967. 120 unsigned impressions published in the deluxe artist's book of the same title containing 12 original color lithographs. Of those 120 portfolios, 20 reserved for the artist were on Japon numbered I/XX to XX/XX, 75 were on Arches (as ours) numbered from 1 to 75, and the remaining 25 also on Arches, were also reserved for the artist. Sur la terre des dieux was published in Paris by A. C. Mazo and printed at Atelier Mourlot by Chagall and Charles Sorlier. This work served as the conclusion to the brief text by Robert Marteau (which had been folded under for framing). The full size of the page is 650x500mm. Image size: 320x390mm. Price: $6250.
Vision of Paris (M. 81). Original color lithograph, 1952. 75 signed & numbered plus 6000 unsigned impressions. Published in a special issue of the deluxe art review, Verve dedicated to Chagall's vision of Paris. One of Chagall's earliest color lithographs and marked by the intensity and delight that Chagall's newly mastered technique brought to his color lithography during the fifties and early sixties. Image size: 353x528mm. Price: $2,875.
The Bay (M. 356). Original color lithograph, 1962. 75 signed & numbered impressions + c. 2000 unsigned impressions (of which ours is one) as published in the deluxe art review, Derrière le Miroir in 1962. One of Chagall's most beautiful presentations of the power of love to lift lovers out of the world ruled by Leviathan. Illustrated in the 1988 Moscow Chagall Exhibition. Image size: 380x560mm. Price: $3250.
L'artiste II (M. 929). Original color lithograph, 1978. 50 signed & numbered impressions, of which this is n. 11/50. This work has just come back from restoration. It is a beautiful image in very good condition. Image size: 330x250mm. Price: $15,000.
Pour Vava plate 13: David plays for King Saul (Cramer 1992, n.142). Original tampon sec or scratch lithograph, 1984. This late work is part of a love note from Chagall to his wife, Vava (Valentina ). Edition: 10 signed and numbered impressions. Chagall coated a stone with black lithographic ink, scatched a drawing into the ink with a sharp-pointed stylus, laid the paper face-down upon the stone and rubbed the reverse until the ink transferred to the paper (see William M. Ivins, Jr. How Prints Look (Boston: Beacon Press, 1958, p. 17) This work was shown in Nice in a celebration of Chagall's long collaboration with Gerald Cramer (see Patrick Cramer, Marc ChagallGerald Cramer, Trente ans de travail et d'amitie [Geneve: Galerie patrick Cramer, 1994], p. 35, n. 142). Our impression is a signed artist's proof. Image size: 240x177mm. Price: $12,500.
Spaightwood Galleries, Inc.
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