Saturday, April 20, 2013

Chagall, Marc

The Promenade
oil on canvas
169.6 x 163.4 cm
The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

This is one of pictures that Chagall painted while on a home visit to Belarus from Paris. When he came in 1914 war broke out and couldn't return. In 1917, he was living back in Vitebsk. It was also the year he became engaged to Bella. In this painting, Chagall expresses the joys of his marriage to Bella. He smiles as he holds a bird in one hand and Bella in the other. Bella soars upward as if a kite in the heavens connected to earth only by Chagall's loving hand. A passionate bouquet of red flowers lay at his foot. Flying in the air celebrates the joy and ecstasy of their love. In the background you can see the houses of the Jewish shtetl with a church nearby. You can identify a glass and a wine bottle laid on a red background; perhaps the remains of some meal/picnic they shared. Green was a color favored by Chagall - he uses it copiously in this painting. He is not painting realistically, the green in this and other paintings (sometimes even green faces) are part of his fantasy world.

Chagall said, "For the Cubists, a painting was a surface covered with forms in a certain order. For me a painting is a surface covered with representations of things . . . in which logic and illustration have no importance."

Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985), was a Belorussian-French artist and one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. Among the celebrated painters of the twentieth century, he is associated with the modern movements after impressionism, including fauvism and Cubism, a twentieth century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting. In Cubist artworks, objects are broken up, analyzed, and re-assembled in an abstracted form instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, he depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to present the piece in a greater context. Often the surfaces intersect at seemingly random angles presenting no coherent sense of depth. However, he worked at the fringes of the different movements of modern art, also infusing his work with the folk art of his Belorussian roots as well as his Jewish heritage.

He studied in Saint Petersburg from 1907 to 1910 at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts and later with Leon Bakst, then he moved to Paris in 1910, where he associated with Guillaume Apollinaire and encountered Fauvism and Cubism. There, he participated in the Salon des Independants and the Salon d'Automne. In 1914, he visited Russia, and was prevented from returning to Paris by the outbreak of war. He settled in Vitebsk, where he was appointed Commissar for Art, and he founded the Vitebsk Popular Art School directing it until disagreements with the Suprematists which resulted in his resignation in 1920. He moved to Moscow and executed his first stage design. After a sojourn in Berlin, he returned to Paris in 1923. During World War II, he fled to the United States, then he returned to and settled permanently in France in 1948. He died March 28, 1985, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France.
"Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love." (Chagall)