Marc Chagall

The Green Donkey


Not on display

Marc Chagall 1887–1985
Original title
L'Ane vert
Gouache on board
Support: 324 × 413 mm
Presented by Lady Clerk 1947

Display caption

While living in Paris between 1910 and 1914 Chagall made many works based on nostalgic memories of his Russian homeland. The naïve style and curious subject of this painting reflect the artist’s preoccupation with folk traditions, particularly those of his Jewish heritage. At one time known as ‘Village Scene’, the colouring and strange arrangement of figures evoke a fantastical scene. While this may relate to a folk tale, no specific narrative for the green donkey has been identified.

Gallery label, March 2005

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Catalogue entry

Marc Chagall born 1887 [- 1985]

N05758 L'Ane vert (The Green Donkey) 1911

Inscribed 'Chagall' and 'Paris 1911' both b.r. Gouache on millboard, 12 3/4 x 16 1/4 (32.5 x 41.5)
Presented by Lady Clerk 1947
Prov: Lady Clerk, Paris and London (from the artist?)
Exh: Chagall, Der Sturm, Berlin, June 1914 (works not listed); Chagall, Kunsthalle, Basle, November-December 1933 (108) as 'La Jument Verte', lent by the artist; Marc Chagall: Work on Paper, Guggenheim Museum, New York, June-September 1975 (2, repr.)
Lit: Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall (London 1964), No.112 in classified catalogue as 'L'Ane Vert', repr., also pp.206 and 315-16
Repr: Graham Reynolds, A Concise History of Watercolours (London 1971), pl.144

The artist told the compiler on 2 January 1953 that this was the first gouache he made in Paris, where he had arrived in 1910. The subject-matter, as in many other works of this period, is based on memories of Russia. He recalled that it was among the works which were left at Herwarth Walden's gallery Der Sturm in Berlin in 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, and which he recovered years later after a long lawsuit. (Chagall's first one-man exhibition, in which this was probably included - there were no less than 40 oils and 160 gouaches, watercolours and drawings - opened at Der Sturm at the beginning of June 1914. According to Franz Meyer, the final settlement was not reached until 1926, when Chagall regained possession of three oils and ten gouaches only).

Oddly enough, it is painted on the back of a faded picture or photograph mount inscribed 'GREUZE'.

Lady Clerk, who presented this and the two hand-coloured prints N05757 and N05759 to the Tate, was the wife of Sir George Russell Clerk, the British Ambassador in Paris from 1934 to 1937. Herself both a painter and composer, her paintings included a portrait of Mme Chagall which is reproduced on the cover of La Renaissance, VIII, March 1935.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.110, reproduced p.110

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