Marc Chagall (French, born Russia, 18871985)
Oil on canvas; 26 1/8 x 38 1/4 in. (66.4 x 97.2 cm)
Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982 (1984.433.6)
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Chagall's early years in Russia were a source of inspiration for much of his later work, as were his memories of the Jewish rituals and community he knew there. Working in Paris from 1910 to 1914, he quickly became absorbed into the city's artistic life. He studied the works of old masters in the Louvre, and discovered the work of the most advanced modern artists in the city's galleries. His own talents were recognizedin 1913 he exhibited in Paris with the Cubists, and the following year had a one-man show in Berlin. Having established an identity for himself in Europe, Chagall returned to his home in Vitebsk (in western Russia) in 1914 to marry his childhood sweetheart Bella Rosenfeld. Village scenes like the one in this picture, which the artist described as "churches, fences, shops, synagoguessimple and eternal, like the buildings in the frescos of Giotto," became the subject of his paintings. Painting a square in Vitebsk, Chagall contrasts the grandeur of the gigantic Baroque basilica against the more modest architecture of the storefronts and stalls. The dramatic perspective and the intersecting planes and angles of the buildings are used skillfully to move the viewer's eye around the busy scene.