November 4, 2011

Marc Chagall: Joy in the Middle of Chaos

Yesterday, I have gotten the chance to see one of the paintings by Marc Chagall, which had captured my imagination a long time ago.

If you were, hypothetically, unable to see this work, here's how it coudld be described verbally, in a non-academic style:

The main idea of this painting is the unity between three figures – a man, a woman, and an angel, who occupy the space at the center of the canvas. The man is perched on the woman’s shoulders. He is holding a glass of red wine in one hand, while covering one of the woman’s eyes with the other. The expression on his face is cheerful, nearly overjoyed.

The woman looks like a bride in a long white décolleté dress. She is holding a fan, and there is a white glove on one of her hands. Her face, undoubtedly, expresses happiness. She doesn’t seem to have anything against supporting this man on her shoulders.

The composition is completed by the figure of an angel, who doesn’t seem to express anything unusual. You could interpret this angel as a compositional trick, to add to the sense of balance. I think he plays a symbolic role. Without him, the whole scene would lose its meaning.

Or, rather, it would acquire a different mood – perhaps a less emotional, more comedic one.

In real life, Marc Chagall married Bella Rosenfeld, despite all the circumstances that did not favour their relationship – historical and financial ones. He painted this picture. When you see it in front of you, it really doesn’t want to release you. Yes, apparently, even in the middle of a horrifying revolution, it is possible to create enchanting paintings that evoke a sense of happiness. The visual poetry in the works by Marc Chagall is full of hidden meanings – this is why his art is unique to me.

At the moment, there is an exhibition taking place at the AGO – Marc Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde.


  1. hello Olga:
    We love this work of Marc Chagall, it has such spirit and joy. A true celebration of love and married life.

    This quotation of Chagall's comes to mind...
    "In our life there is a single colour, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love".

  2. Moi aussi, j'aime beaucoup Chagall. Son musée est tout proche de chez moi, et puis, dans la région, il a laissé beaucoup de traces. Sur les murs des mairies ou le plafond des chapelles.
    Bon week-end, Olga!

  3. Oh wow- this is a super painting. I love your interpretation. Embarrassed to say, I have never had any art classes but you described it to me in a way -I could follow. I also enjoy art with hidden meanings...i think that's why I love art from Frida Kahlo so much.=)

  4. Beautiful work and beautiful description. I remember you did mention that the Art Gallery of Ontario was running a Chagall exhibition in October. Did you take the picture there? :-)
    I did take one in San Sebastian!

  5. Me gusta el color del cuadro, se ve felicidad en los dos.

    "El arte es sobre todo un estado del alma.... Y el gran arte se recoge donde la naturaleza termina" Marc chagall.

    Buen fin de semana.
    Un beso

  6. I love Marc Chagall. I have a print of The Poet Reclining in my house and I love how somber it is.

    Nice to know you are also a Chagall fan!

  7. Да, действитеьно, любовь Шагала к Белле была радостью посреди хаоса. И ангел все-таки был с ним, поддерживал его, недаром он прожил долгую и полную творческую жизнь.

  8. What an interesting painting, thanks for the backgrounder on it.

  9. I love Chagall too. My favorite is "Poet Reclining."

  10. oh i lost the other comment i think...or something with the box...anyway i cannot write it all again but he is a poet with a brush....absolutely adore him and you have given us a beautiful description of this piece...i would imagine it is far more beautiful when you stand before it.

    blessings... i found you through aguja's blog-how lovely. xxx

  11. It is a superior painting. The combination of the colors is unique. I believe that the work has many meanings in the somewhat comical taste.
    Red Rose.

  12. I am enchanted by this painting and thrilled you saw it in person and shared it with us. I have admired other pieces by Chagall but had not seen this one.

    What a very timely title and post for these days. Art helps us to live through strange and difficult times, and a painting like this one helps us to rise above them!

  13. Wonderful blog Olga ! Nice beeing here !

  14. I love your description. It allows me to see deeper into the painting. Good job!

  15. I love his paintings, they are so symbolic, colourful and defy the rules of conformity in a given space.
    Great painting, I am so pleased you were able to see the original.
    xoxoxo ♡

  16. How fortunate that you have been able to see this piece. It is so full of joy and energy. Together with your lead into the painting, it makes a great post ... also makes for a happy weekend.

  17. Interesting post but not to my taste. Good thing we all have different ideas :) Diane

  18. I agree with you in saying that the angel has a symbolic function in the composition. But I think the position of the angel and the space it occupies is intended to balance the composition. The work is the best known and most genius Marc chagall.
    Congratulations on the text and post.
    a hug

  19. Love your description of this painting and the little history you gave. It tells me that one can find happiness anywhere they choose to and the painting looks very happy to me.

  20. Interesting style! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Have you seen theChagall church windows in the Fraumünster in Zürich? they are massive and amazing. When I was there I bought a booklet which explained his thoughts about the windows. Chagall lived in Zürich for a while and there are quite a few works of his there.

  22. This painting is beautiful. The fashion, the hair cuts, and the style remind me of the 1920s...

    I love the use of color and the emotion conveyed. It's unnerving and yet fascinating.

    I'm going to google his other work now! Thanks for introducing us to him. :)

  23. He is certainly a one-of-a-kind artist, an original. I don't recall seeing any of his works in museums, but your presentation here is as good as it gets! Thank you for bring his work to the forefront today.

  24. I like how Marc Chagal playes tricks on us. The figures seem to be croped from another painting and placed on one which was originally a view of the city.

  25. Hi Jane and Lance Hattatt,
    I'm really glad I got to see this painting. Nothing compares to the feeling of seeing it right in front of you. Not a single poster or reproduction could re-create the transparency of the colour, or its depth.

    Hi Richard,
    Vous êtes l'une des personnes les plus chanceuses au monde. J'espère que vous utilisez régulièrement ce bonheur. Si nous avons un couple de peintures de la France viennent dans notre musée, nous rebondir au plafond avec bonheur.

    Hi Sandy,
    Art classes are a good thing. But, in reality, it depends on the teacher who teaches them. I have been lucky with some and unlucky with others. In the place where the teacher was bad, I myself filled in the gaps in education.

    Hi Pet,
    Unfortunately, the Art Gallery of Ontario have taken up this unfortunate position of disallowing the visitors to take photos. Overall, I expected more from the exhibition.

    Hi Laura.M,
    Muchas gracias por esta cita. Yo no sabía nada de él. He comenzado a amar y apreciar Chagall cuando vi sus pinturas en la vida real, en Francia.

  26. Hi Lydia,
    I'm not surprised that you have this particular reproduction of his painting. Actually, I think that many of his images were created especially for poets :)

    Hi Tisa,
    Я всё-таки не вполне понимаю какой он был человек в реальной жизни. мне как-то не везло с книгами о нём. Хочется побольше узнать. А ангел, всё время, действительно, с ним находился.
    Удивляюсь, как он вывез такую большую работу во Францию.

    Hi Gillian,
    The painting really is interesting. Neither the photos nor the book illustrations really give an impression of what it is like.

    Hi Φανή Παπαγεωργίου, Ζωγράφος,
    His colours really are extraordinary. Sometimes he uses only three colours in a large painting, and achieves extraordinary results.

    Hi Wong,
    He really had an interesting style; very unique and individualistic.

  27. Hi Randy,
    "Poet Reclining" is one of his most impressive works.

    Hi Linda,
    Thank you for following me, and for such a lovely comment. The work is really extraordinary; it's really big, which surprised me, because he left the country during the revolution. How could they let him take it?

    Hi Tomoko,
    Marc Chagall is still a mystery to me. Despite the fact that I have read several biographies, the mystery is still unsolved.

    Hi Lydia,
    What is really strange about this painting is that they let him take such a large painting out of the country after the revolution. An extraordinary sense of calm descends on you when you stand before this painting.

    Hi Lasse,
    Thank you very much for visiting :) Come again; I'd appreciate it.

  28. Hi Ola,
    I'm glad you hear you like his work. He is a unique artist, and his world can be explored infinitely.

    Hi R. Jacob,
    Unfortunately, no reproduction can re-create the impression of the original painting - and, of course, it would not convey the transparency of the colours.

    Hi Dianne,
    I think this work is really strange. At the same time, it is very powerful. It's not only the emotions, but also the size of the painting and the philosophy behind it :)

    Hi aguja,
    It's really great, because we're not so spoiled here in Canada, like some people in Europe ;) When we have some paintings in our gallery, by a favourite artist, it is a real holiday.

    Hi Diane,
    I started to really enjoy Chagall only recently; maybe five years ago. It's the same story as with Rothko; you need to stand before his work in real life.

  29. Hi Antonio,
    He is simply extraordinary. He captures you completely, both with his tragic paintings, and with his joyful ones. You can imagine how many times I am planning to visit this exhibition :)

    Hi lilylovekin,
    Yes, people might be able to be happy in any circumstances, regardless of anything, if they are with someone they love :)

    Hi Riya,
    You are welcome. This is a romantic story from real life :)

    Hi Jenny,
    Unfortunately, I have never been to Zurich. I know that his works have had a scandalous reputation. Only now, people are beginning to realize his genius.

    Hi Jennifer Fabulous,
    Marc Chagall is still a mystery to me. His relationship with the public, with critics, and with women were not so scandalous as with Pablo Picasso, but still, his life wasn't ordinary.

  30. Hi Doug,
    I have seen works by Marc Chagall in Moscow and in France. It never was enough. Although, in every painting, he has his own style, each time there is drama and mystery. At the same time, there is a lot of happiness.

    Hi Jorge,
    It's really an extraordinary painting. Just like many of his work that require careful attention, and the time that is devoted to them is never wasted.

    Hi Nas Dean,
    Thank you. It's really an extraordinary painting. The biggest impression comes across if you stand before it.

  31. Hi Olga, thankyou for sharing your thoughts on this painting by Marc Chagall. I am not familiar with him, but I really enjoyed looking at it. When I have a little more time I will do a little research on him. I loved Hattats quote! Love Linda x

  32. Hi Linda,
    The Hattatts are the best! Marc Chagall is a very interesting artist; worthy of a great deal of study and admiration.

  33. Oh Olga I loved this piece that I have only now had time to read. How I wish you could teach my Art History class at college :) Maybe you could come over as a guest lecturer?

    By the way, I thought of you in London when I spent quite a bit of time looking at a reconstruction of Tatlin's Tower at the Royal Academy!

  34. Hi Dolly,
    Today, I took my friends to this exhibition. I gave them an art history lecture. Even my husband approved of it :)
    Tatlin's Tower can also be found at that exhibition, by the way!