Marc Chagall was already an internationally recognized master of graphics when, in 1950, at the age of sixty-three, he set out to learn the technique of color lithography, beginning with the very basics. He received his instruction in the studios of Fernand Mourlot, the great post-war reviver of color lithography who worked with modern masters such as Braque, Picasso, and Matisse. Chagall was initiated in the secrets of the practice by Charles Sorlier, whom Mourlot had recommended to him as a printer.Lithography soon became Chagall's favored printing technique, mostly because of the spontaneity and freedom it afforded him in the production of a work on paper, especially in terms of color effects. A further reason why he preferred lithography to other printing methods was the growing demand for original works by Chagall at affordable prices; lithography was the most suitable printing method for the production of any amount required. Furthermore, with lithography it was possible to produce prints whose formats corresponded to small and medium-size paintings, so that Chagall's artistic ideas could in effect be directly translated to a printed medium.Chagall and Sorlier quickly formed a bond of friendship. Chagall deeply appreciated Sorlier's sensitivity toward his art, and came to place complete confidence in Sorlier as a transmittor of his aesthetic agenda. Throughout their long collaboration, Chagall supervised the creation of individual proofs and then approved them for printing. In the catalogue raisonne of his personal collection of Chagall's lithographs, Sorlier describes his relationship with his "Patron" throughout the printing process:"Chagall began by drawing a composition in black, on stone, zinc, or transfer paper, depending upon the complexity of the work. The black drawing usually formed the work's complete skeleton. After he had had several prints made, he added color with watercolors or pastels, enabling him to choose between several versions. When he had completed his model in this manner, he prepared the plates for the different colors. On a hand press, known in the trade as a bete a cornes (horned beast), we then turned out the trial proofs....He nearly always revised them, corrected them, added new colors. Renewed attempts, sometimes two or three, were necessary in order to execute the model as it was intended. Only when the trial proof entirely corresponded to his wishes did he sign it good for printing, generally for fifty prints; when this was not the case, he had all of the compositions destroyed."Sorlier was a master colorist, and continually encouraged Chagall to experiment with vivid hues and to incorporate them into his lithography. To this day, Chagall's lithographic "afters" produced in collaboration with Sorlier are still some of the most prized pieces of the artist's graphic oeuvre, representingÂ a brilliant conjunction of Chagall's unparalleled painterly style and Sorlier's mastery of technique.
Charles Sorlier after Marc Chagall, (CS 51), 1960, Signed,