Marc Chagall

Executed in rich jewel tones of blue and red, La jeune Mexicaine depicts a beautiful woman carrying a basket of fruits, serenaded by a Mexican mariachi. In the summer of 1942, Chagall travelled to Mexico with his wife Bella in response to a commission he had received to design the scenery and costumes for the American Ballet Theatre company’s production of Aleko. The Chagalls had arrived in New York that previous summer and it was there where the preliminary arrangements for the production were made. Léonide Massine was brought in to oversee the choreography and Chagall found a valuable kinship with his fellow Russian. They would meet almost daily for several months in the lead up to the production, which, due to technical reasons, was scheduled to premiere in Mexico City rather than New York. Franz Meyer, Chagall’s biographer and son-in-law, has written in 1961 that »for Chagall and his wife, the months spent working with Massine were among the happiest of their stay in America«.

Once the Chagalls arrived in Mexico City, they were each consumed with working on the final touches of the production. Chagall worked on the backdrops while Bella supervised the costume production. Despite their busy schedules, the Chagalls were able to sneak moments away to explore the city and surrounding countryside of Mexico. It was during those brief interludes that Chagall completed several sketches that would inform a series of gouaches depicting the local populace. Franz Meyer, would state that »these works reveal his deep sympathy with Mexico and the Mexicans. He felt attracted to their ardent, generous nature and was pleased at their feeling for art and their response to his own work. It is these people that we see in the gouaches«.

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