Belarusian, born Vitebsk, Russia (now Belarus), active in France, 1887-1985
Marc Chagall was born into a Hasidic Jewish family in an area of the Russian Empire that is now Belarus. The artist’s early life formed the basis of his artistic themes, and, in 1911, not long after moving to Paris, Chagall painted I and the Village, his first exploration of imagery reminiscent of his childhood. In 1925, he revisited this motif in Peasant Life and several related tableaux. All are based on a free association of images drawn from folklore, his memories, and his imagination that coalesce in a dream-like atmosphere. Peasant Life repeats the basic compositional structure of diagonals and circles found in I and the Village, but is more abstract and less schematic. The principal motif remains a young man and an animal. However, in Peasant Life he is feeding a horse carrots, which suggests a synergy between man and beast. The arc at top recalls the Earth, reinforcing this coexistence. At left, a family gathers around a table in a building with a sign bearing what is most likely a Cyrillic abbreviation for Lavka ("little shop"), presumably a reference to the grocery store operated by Chagall’s mother. The overall optimistic tone of the painting continues in depictions of a horse-drawn carriage ride and dancing figures, as well as the vivid color palette. Although Chagall at times directly addressed the oppression and difficulties faced by Jews in Eastern Europe, paintings such as this reflect the joyful side of Judaism and the comfort of an all-embracing, loving Creator.