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Rarely seen Marc Chagall paintings go on show for first time

The works span the painter's career from 1913 to 1984

A collection of rarely seen works by Marc Chagall have gone on show in London for the first time.

The 26 works, which include paper gouaches and oil paintings, span Chagall’s career from 1913 to 1984, showcasing the Russian-French artist's distinctive folk-inspired, playful style.

None of the paintings were exhibited in the recent Chagall retrospective at Tate Liverpool last year, with just “Dos a dos” having been on show before to the British public at the Royal Academy in 1985.

The commercial exhibition in Mayfair marks the first time the works have been seen together after the Opera Gallery took two years to track down the pieces from private collections. 

Jean-David Malat, the exhibition’s curator, visited the paintings’ owners around the world from Switzerland to the US to persuade them to sell their works for the gallery’s show.

He says “Moise et les tables de la loi”, an oil painting from 1955, was the hardest work to track down having belonged to the same collection for a number of years.

In the painting, which depicts a horned Moses receiving the 10 commandments, Chagall purposefully plays with the wrong Latin translation of Moses’s face, which was traditionally translated to mean “horned” but was later corrected to mean “shining”.

Malat estimates the works, which are on sale from £250,000 to £3 million, are worth around £18 million.

L'hiver arbre en hiver 1974_.jpg
Marc Chagall, 'L'hiver arbre en hiver 1974'

He adds it was easier to persuade the owners to sell their works once they realised their value had tripled since 2006.

“It is not always easy to convince the owner to agree to exhibit and sell his piece, but we can always find a good compromise,” he says.

“One of the small Chagall paintings comes from an American collector, as we offered to sell him a larger artwork that he had been looking for for a long time in return for the Chagall piece. He agreed to sell his masterpiece and buy the other one from us.”

Marc Chagall's paintings are on show at the Opera Gallery, 134 New Bond Street, London, W15 2TF until 4 June.