Marc Chagall (French, born Russia, 1887–1985)
Oil on canvas
18 x 15 in. (45.7 x 38.1 cm)
The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002 (2002.456.8)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Marc Chagall conjured up his native Russia in the works he painted from 1910 to 1914 while he was living in the French capital. Similarly, in the small painting The Betrothed, he evoked his far-away fiancée Bella Rosenfeld, whom he would marry in 1915 upon his return to Vitebsk, Russia. The picture's palette of only blue and white is unusual within the artist's oeuvre, yet the brighter colors showing through the white paint suggest that Chagall reused an old canvas. Pierre Matisse, the son of artist Henri Matisse, had coveted the works of Chagall since 1924, when he first met the artist in Paris. Chagall was loath to part with his work, but in 1941 Pierre, who then owned an art gallery in New York, was able to mount an exhibition of Chagall's work that became a "blockbuster"; this was followed by sixteen more exhibitions at the gallery through 1982.