Marc Chagall

The Poet Reclining


Not on display

Marc Chagall 1887–1985
Original title
Le Poète allongé
Oil paint on cardboard
Support: 772 × 775 mm
frame: 953 × 960 × 91 mm
Purchased 1942

Display caption

Chagall had just married his first wife Bella when he began this painting. It is a reverie in which he imagines himself outstretched in the Russian countryside where they spent their honeymoon. He remembered it as a place of 'wood, fir-trees, solitude. The moon behind the forest. The pig in the sty, the horse behind the window, in the fields. The sky lilac.' Though an idyllic scene, the figure seems oddly isolated. This may relate to the fact that Chagall painted it during the First World War, a conflict then being fought on Russian soil.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Marc Chagall born 1887 [- 1985]

N05390 Le Poète allongé (The Poet reclining) 1915

Inscribed 'M. Chagall | 1915' b.l. and in cyrillic 'Chagall' b.r.
Oil on millboard, 30 3/8 x 30 1/2 (77 x 77.5)
Purchased from H.T. de Vere Clifton through the Leicester Galleries (Knapping Fund) 1942
Prov: Roger de La Fresnaye, Paris (purchased from the artist through Galerie Pierre, Paris, c.1924); Georges de Miré, 1925 with Galerie Pierre, Paris; the artist; through Arthur Tooth and Sons, London; H.T. de Vere Clifton, Lytham, 1937
Exh: Marc Chagall, Kunsthalle, Basle, November-December 1933 (39) as 'Le Sour'; Les Maitres de l'Art Indépendant 1895-1937, Petit Palais, Paris, June-October 1937 (Room 20, 136); New Year Exhibition, Leicester Galleries, London, January 1942 (97); The Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, National Gallery, London, April-May 1942 (24); A Selection from the Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, CEMA touring exhibition, September 1942-September 1943 (9); Marc Chagall, Tate Gallery, February 1948 (19); Marc Chagall, Kunstverein, Hamburg, February-March 1959 (57, repr.); Haus der Kunst, Munich, April-May 1959 (57, repr.); Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, June-September 1959 (57, repr.); Marc Chagall, Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, October-November 1960 (11, repr.); Chagall, Kunsthaus, Zurich, May-July 1967 (54, repr.); Wallraf-Richartz-Museum exhibition in the Kunsthalle, Cologne, September-October 1967 (61, repr.); Hommage à Marc Chagall, Grand Palais, Paris, December 1969-March 1970 (46, repr.); Marc Chagall, Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, March-May 1970 (23, repr. in colour)
Lit: Marc Chagall, Ma Vie (Paris 1931), p.181; Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall (London 1964), p. 237, repr. p. 260
Repr: André Salmon, Chagall (Paris 1928), pl.19; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery (London 1958), p.149 in colour

According to Mme Ida Meyer-Chagall (letter of 30 October 1952), the artist said that this picture was painted in Russia during the honeymoon following his first marriage. 'I was resting in front of our house!'

It may be compared with a passage in his autobiography, where he describes the days after the marriage:

'At last we are alone in the country.

'Woods, fir-trees, solitude. The moon behind the forest. The pig in the sty, the horse behind the window, in the fields. The sky lilac.'

It has also been known as 'Evening' (as is proved by a label on the back) and 'The Poet', but Chagall says that he prefers the title 'Le Poète allongé'. He does not think it was the picture of 1915 called 'Landscape in Lilac' shown in his one-man exhibitions at the Galerie Barbazanges Hodebert, Paris, the Kunstverein, Cologne, and the Galerie Arnold, Dresden, in 1924-5.

The stretcher has the stamp of a German art supplier, Leopold Hess of Berlin, and the edges of the millboard appear to have been trimmed slightly all round. It would seem to have been mounted on a stretcher during Chagall's stay in Berlin in 1922-3. There is a photograph of his Paris studio taken in 1924 which shows it hanging on the wall (repr. James Johnson Sweeney, Marc Chagall, New York 1946, p.53).

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, pp.110-11, reproduced p.110

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