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The Watering Trough

Marc Chagall, French (born Russia), 1887 - 1985


Oil on canvas

39 1/4 x 34 11/16 inches (99.7 x 88.1 cm) Framed: 49 5/8 × 45 1/4 inches (126 × 114.9 cm)

© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963

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This painting was one of the first works that Chagall completed upon his return to Paris in September 1923. The humorous subject matter—a bent-over woman struggles to prevent a watering trough from tipping over while a pig gives her a sly look—is typical of Chagall’s work in the 1920s, which often features a droll menagerie of mischievous animals and birds. The heightened color effects and the softening of forms and contours are also characteristic of the artist’s work during his second Paris period, which is often criticized for its overly sweet and nostalgic depictions of life in Russia before the revolution of 1917.


With Galerie Siegmund Salz, Cologne, by 1925 [1]; sold to the Kunstverein Barmen, 1925 [2]; confiscated from the Ruhmeshalle, Wuppertal-Barmen, by the National Socialist authorities, 1938 [3]; exchanged, along with other modern works, with dealer Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, for a 19th century landscape painting belonging to Galerie Möller, June 14, 1940 [4]; sold by Möller to Dr. Kurt Feldhäusser (1905-1945), Berlin, c. 1941; by inheritance to his mother Marie Luise Feldhäusser (?1876-1967), Berlin and Brooklyn, 1945-1949 [5]; with Erhard Weyhe Gallery, New York, 1949; sold to Louis E. Stern, New York, October 11, 1949 [6]; bequest to PMA, 1963. 1. An entry in an old inventory book of the Kunstverein Barmen records the purchase of the painting (dated 1923) from Siegmund Salz, Cologne, in 1925, presumably the owner of the gallery of the same name (information provided by Dr. Antje Birthälmer, Deputy Director of the Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal, in a letter of August 1, 2002 in curatorial file). 2. The painting was probably purchased from the 1925 "Ausstellung Marc Chagall" organized by the Kölnischer Kunstverein. An oil entitled "Die Tränke" and dated 1923, most likely this painting, appears in the exhibition checklist. 3. EK (Entartete Kunst) inventory number 16542, as "Die Tränke" ("Entartete Kunst" typescript inventory, c. 1941/1942, Victoria and Albert Museum National Art Library, Fischer Collection; copy of inventory entry in curatorial file). The painting was included in the Nazi-organized exhibition "Entartete Kunst" (Degenerate Art), held at the Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, June 18-August 7, 1938. 4. As recorded in the EK inventory, the painting went to dealer Ferdinand Möller, one of four dealers appointed by the Nazi government to dispose of confiscated "degenerate art" on the international market, by sale or exchange. The entry is marked "T" for Tausch (exchange). The Reich acquired from Möller a "Romantic Landscape" from the circle of Caspar David Friedrich (probably Karl Wisse) in exchange for six confiscated works: three by Heckel, one by Nolde, and two by Chagall (including "Purim", 1963-181-11); see Roters, Galerie Ferdinand Möller, Berlin, 1984, Documents 111 and 115, p. 287-288. 5. A letter from the Weyhe Gallery to Henry Gardiner received July 8, 1964 (copy in curatorial file) states that the painting formerly belonged to Dr. Kurt Feldhäusser of Berlin, and that Marie Luisa [sic] Feldhäusser brought the painting to the U.S. (no date given). Feldhäusser, an art historian and schoolteacher, made most of his "degenerate art" acquisitions from Möller in 1941. Curatorial records at the Museum of Modern Art state that he died in the Christmas bombing raid on Frankfurt in 1944; however, according to Andrew Robison ("Kirchner Collector Kurt Feldhäusser," in Festschrift für Eberhard W. Kornfeld zum 80 Geburtstag, 2003, p. 251-253), Feldhäusser was killed by an Allied bombardment in Nuremberg on 2 January 1945. Feldhäusser's mother Marie Luise brought most of his collection to Brooklyn NY in 1948, and subsequently placed it on consignment with Weyhe Gallery. The Social Security Death Index records a Marie L. Feldhäusser, born in 1876 and died in New York in 1967 (no place of birth given), probably the same person. 6. The price was paid in installments; the last installment paid April 4, 1950 (see copy of receipts in curatorial file). Stern also bought Chagall's "Purim" (1963-181-11), from the Feldhäusser collection.

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