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This important study was most likely executed in April 1945 when Chagall was in exile in New York due to the Nazi occupation. It was probably the first work he produced after coming out of mourning for his late wife, Bella (who had died suddenly in September 1944), and was created in response to seeing the horrors of the concentration camps revealed through newspapers and Pathé newsreels. Previously, Chagall's crucifixions had symbolised the Nazi's Jewish victims in order to remind Christians that Jesus was a Jew and they should stop persecuting his brothers. However, here Chagall incorporates facts about the Holocaust for the first time. The clock in the top right of the study is missing its hands, casting this moment as the end of time – the apocalypse.
Apocalypse en Lilas, Capriccio
gouache, pencil, Indian wash & ink on paper
H 51 x W 35.5 cm
acquired with the assistance of Miriam and Richard Borchard, Sir Michael and Lady Morven Heller, and an anonymous donor, and benefitting from the advice of Lionel Pissarro and the Art Fund, 2009
Drawing & watercolour
Signed (lower left): 'Chagall'