MY LIFE, BOLDLY INSCRIBED BY CHAGALL IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION TO THE PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIRECTOR AT BRANDEIS WHERE CHAGALL WAS ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE, WITH ORIGINAL "SKETCH"
CHAGALL, Marc. My Life. New York: Orion, (1960). Small quarto, original beige cloth, original dust jacket. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $4000.
First edition in English of Chagall's autobiography, boldly inscribed on the half-title in the year of publication to the Director of Public Affairs at Brandeis where Chagall was Artist-in-Residence: "Pour Beryl Reubens en bon souvenir Marc Chagall 1960. Brandeis," with an original sketch (a curved line) by Chagall, and a typed signed letter by the recipient, Reubens, describing the circumstances of the inscription and why Chagall drew the line in lieu of a more complicated sketch.
This lyrical autobiography, illustrated with 20 black-and-white plates, traces Marc Chagall's life from his birth on the outskirts of Vitebsk, Belarus to 1922, the year before he returned to Paris. Containing Chagall's impressions of his childhood, Judaism, Russian politics and art, this work offers a fascinating glimpse into the painter's mind. The first edition was originally written in Russian and translated into French by Bella Chagall in 1931; this edition was translated from the French version by Elisabeth Abbott. This item is accompanied by a signed explanatory letter from the recipient. Typed on Brandeis stationery, it reads: "Waltham, Mass. October, 1960. This past summer, the University invited Marc Chagall to come to campus and receive an Honorary Degree and to remain on campus for several weeks as 'Artist-in-Residence.' He came, with his wife. He was placed in my charge for arranging all public session[s] and media interviews, including one happy jaunt to Manhattan, where my wife and I hosted a press conference for him at the 'Pen & Pencil.' We became fairly friendly and, on his last day at Brandeis, I shoved this copy of his book, 'My Life,' under his nose and asked him to autograph it for me. Which he did. Then I handed it back to him and, with a grin, asked if he wouldn't like to include a Marc Chagall sketch. With his own impish grin, (he resembled Harpo Marx) he took the book back, and—under the watchful gaze of his wife—drew the single curved line 'sketch' which surrounds the autograph on the flyleaf. Actually, his response to the situation (wanting to please me, but not displease his wife) reflects the same fey sense of humor with which he approached the life situations he painted. The translation of his autograph is 'For Beryl Reubens, in fond memory. Marc Chagall. 1960. Brandeis University.' I am placing this note in the book, confident that it will have added meaning and import in future decades—either for me or for whoever become the eventual owner of this bit of Chagalliana. [signed] Beryl L. Reubens."
Book with mild toning to extremities, dust jacket with slight soiling and a bit of wear to extremities. A near-fine inscribed copy.