1882-1964 | Russian
Portrait of Marc Chagall
Oil on canvas
Inscribed and dated "1911" (lower left)
This striking portrait by Leon Gaspard of Marc Chagall, one of the most important artists of the 20th century, is demonstrative of Gaspard's ability to capture a subject's essence, along with their likeness, in personal portraiture. An impressive rendering of the famously elusive artist, Gaspard’s Portrait of Marc Chagall is a unique work of both artistic and historical significance.
The intimate Post-Impressionist portrait features a spectacled 24-year-old Marc Chagall, who glances sideways beneath his downturned hat, with his coat collar folded up against the cold. Gaspard, an old friend of the modernist master, portrays Chagall as a pensive, solitary figure. Chagall’s time in Paris was both creatively exhilarating and an exceptionally lonely period for the artist, marked by homesickness. As a fellow Russian émigré, Gaspard understood this inner turmoil. Chagall continued to paint Russian and Jewish subjects while abroad as an homage to his beloved homeland. Dated 1911, Portrait of Marc Chagall was painted during a formative period of the artist's career, as it was the same year Chagall completed his landmark work I and the Village, inspired by his home in Vitebsk and now held at the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Both Leon Gaspard and Marc Chagall were born and raised in Vitebsk, Russia in the late 19th century, and began their artistic studies together under the tutelage of artist Yehuda Pen. The two became quick friends and, for a time, even rivals as they both courted Bella Rosenfeld (who later married Chagall). Gaspard moved to Paris to study at the renowned Académie Julian, working closely with the prominent Academic artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Chagall continued his studies in St. Petersburg until 1910 when he moved to Paris as well — where the two artists rekindled their friendship.
Leon Gaspard spent his career traveling across Asia, Europe and the American Southwest, painting portraits of the people he met along the way. However, very few of Gaspard’s artworks depict someone he was close to, imbuing this portrait with the added significance of Chagall’s personal and artistic impact on Gaspard. Gaspard achieved critical acclaim later in his career and has recently achieved major auction success.
Canvas: 6 1/8" high x 7" wide
Frame: 10" high x 10 7/8" wide x 1/2" deep
Private collection, Chicago (acquired from the artist).
Private collection (daughter of the above, by descent).
Owings-Dewey Fine Art, Santa Fe.