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Marc Chagall as an artist and as a person cannot be categorized. He was born in Vitebsk, Russia, learned to paint in St. Petersburg and lived in Paris, Berlin, and the United States. His career is influenced by many different factors. His Hasidic Jewish upbringing reflected in the content of his paintings greatly. The lyrical fairy tales of Jewish mysticism, the stories of the Bible, and the Rabbis and scholars who surrounded him in his childhood come out onto his work. When he went to art school in St. Petersburg it was the period when he became exposed to the avant-garde movement in art. With Leon Bakst he saw the reproductions of Fauve canvases, the sketches of Van Gogh and of Cezzanne his ambition to go to Paris was born. At the time that he moves to Paris for the first time (1910- 1914) Fauvism and Cubism were the prevailing modern art movements. It can be seen in Chagall’s composition the application of these movements principles of arbitrary colour and reorganization o!
f the visual field, but he incorporates these principles with a dream like scape to create his own personal style.
The term Surrealism applies to Chagall, that is the term that was coined when Appolinaire when visiting his studio in 1913 murmured “Supernatural!”. This is not to say that Chagall was part of any Surrealist movement on the contrary he is against any style or movement. It used as a term where the artist has drawn upon consciously or unconsciously from the dream experience. It is clear in his works that he does not want any movement to restrict his expression and mobility. He is wholly against empathetic realism, of the Courbet, Impressionist or Cubist sort, yet he still uses Cubist devices and comes close to Impressionism. Chagall depicts a more dreamlike, story like content filled with symbolism (much of it traditional) in his paintings. He admired Manet, and drew great inspiration from Gauguin in his early years. He creates a style that was more universalistic and one that did not have any idealistic underpinnings.
Chagall’s painting The Fiddler (1912) is the largest and richest work in the series of figure pictures in which Chagall was bringing to life the typical characters he remembered from his childhood. In this composition the use of arbitrary colour is clearly seen, for example the fiddler\'s green face, the blue roof top etc. He does not use a pseudo -Cubist composition. He uses more of a subtle correlation of the planes. One may wonder why it has an underlying geometric structure. Chagall in order to continue painting used a patterned tablecloth instead of a canvas. He did not disguise this surface but retained elements of it in his composition. You can see the pattern over the fiddler’s shoulder and on his leg. He has the fiddler floating in mid-air with the town below him above and beside him. The different buildings in the town are arranged in geometric shapes and lines. The most important thing as in all Chagall compositions is the symbolism. The fiddler symbolizes severa!
l things at once, a memory from Chagall’s childhood, from his homeland and on a personal level himself. His childhood memory was that of his uncle Neuch who didn’t play the violin very well but who was enthusiastic when he played it. Its wider Russian significance is that of the failed revolution of 1905. The leader of this revolution was a Jewish fiddler named Edouard Sormus, who led workers through the streets to fight for their rights. Chagall saw himself in the fiddler, a solitary individual, isolated by the strangeness and mystery of art. The whole build-up of the painting reinforces the poetical dimension of the picture. This painting was important to Chagall. He used the symbol of the fiddler in other composition, for example The Violinist (1911), and The Green Violinist (1923-24).
Another major work of his, the painting I and the Village (1911-1914) suggests the complexities of opposition and unity, the confrontation between man and beast. He has blended his nostalgia for his homeland very well with the adopted style of Cubism. The whole composition is full of symbolism and of subtleties. On first look we see man facing a cow. In the cow’s face with see
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Modern painters, School of Paris, Levites, Marc Chagall, Neo-primitivism, Chagall, I and the Village, Cubism, Modern art
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