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(Vitebsk, 1887 - Saint-Paul-de-Vence, 1985) French painter of Russian origin. Born in a small Russian village, his artistic concerns led him to Paris in 1910, where he reached his artistic maturity.
The village and I (1911)
He returned to Russia in 1914 and participated actively in the cultural renewal of their country, but their quarrels with Malevich and the revolutionary demands of linking political and artistic work would lead him to March to Germany in 1924. His Jew status would compel him after a pilgrimage by France and United States, which would restore him definitively to France at the end of the second world war.
Its assimilation of the two flagship Vanguards, fauvism and Cubism, is evident in the pictures made in his early Parisian. Compositions such as the poet (1911, Philadelphia Museum of Art) and homage to Apollinaire (1912, Stedelijk van Abben Museum, Eindhoven) are fully Cubist, while others, such as the father (1911, private collection, Paris) continue to strictly Fauvist slogans.
From the first moment, however, these formal influences blend with the deeper substrate of his own personal experiences, deeply rooted in his native Vitebsk and in the fact of belonging to the Jewish community. This double condition its particular repertoire of images, extracted from Chagall reduced iconographical vocabulary which stays faithful throughout his life. His painting is the embodiment of a memory that fuses the personal memories with the imagery of the Russian popular folklore and represents an indissoluble unity between reality and fantasy, between symbolic logic and the irrationality of the subconscious.
The village and I (1911, MOMA, New York), made just one year after his arrival in Paris, is exemplary with respect to that synthesis specifically chagalliana between avant-garde and popular tradition, and has the colours bright and emancipated he learned of fauvism and reality will be a dominant in all his production trait. The apparent anarchy of his images, mixed without a clear spatial and narrative logic that justifies overlaps, the heterogeneity of sizes and the transgression of the laws of physics, are however subject to a careful radial composition that follows the teachings of cubism; These are evident in the design of lines that articulates the different images each other and establish connections between figures in foreground and background.
The village and I (1911)
References to the peasant world where he spent his childhood - the village houses, milking machine, the peasants - as well as the vegetable motive first couple, are some of the images that most consistently repeated throughout all his work. All of them have as regards common the world of his childhood and Chagall makes use of them encastando them with the arbitrariness of the reverie and nostalgia.
On other occasions, the illogical appearance of images derived from simple transcription to the visual language of common expressions of spoken language, that Chagall takes and displays as a way to reveal psychic experiences. Thus can be seen floating in the air of the pair of lovers in pictures such as the birthday (1915, MOMA, New York), painted shortly after his marriage to Bella, his muse for many years.
The idea of "losing his head" is materialized in A Russia, asses and others (1911-1912, National Museum of modern art, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris); where the head separated from the trunk is not but one explainable arbitrariness, as well as the Red cow on a roof or in the weightlessness of the woman, for the pleasure of creating a visual fable where unreality does not need to be justified.
Chagall builds a world of associations through which want to reveal the secret message of things, but her look is closer of childhood naiveté, it dispenses with immediate functionality of objects and logical coherence, that revelations search specific. For that reason, refuses to adhere to the praises of Breton and the surrealist movement despite the insistence. The existence of images that coexist outside of rational logic is for him a real fact and accepts it as something inherent to life itself, not as a product of a refined intellectual game or a trip to the depths of the unconscious.