Painting of the Day

13 Nov


Paris Through the Window. by Marc Chagall (1887-1985). Oil on canvas. 1913. Currently at the Guggenheim Museum, NYC.

From Guggenheim Museum’s website:

After Marc Chagall moved to Paris from Russia in 1910, his paintings quickly came to reflect the latest avant-garde styles. In Paris Through the Window, Chagall’s debt to the Orphic Cubism of his colleague Robert Delaunay is clear in the semitransparent overlapping planes of vivid color in the sky above the city. The Eiffel Tower, which appears in the cityscape, was also a frequent subject in Delaunay’s work. For both artists it served as a metaphor for Paris and perhaps modernity itself. Chagall’s parachutist might also refer to contemporary experience, since the first successful jump occurred in 1912. Other motifs suggest the artist’s native Vitebsk. This painting is an enlarged version of a window view in a self-portrait painted one year earlier, in which the artist contrasted his birthplace with Paris. The Janus figure in Paris Through the Window has been read as the artist looking at once westward to his new home in France and eastward to Russia. Chagall, however, refused literal interpretations of his paintings, and it is perhaps best to think of them as lyrical evocations, similar to the allusive plastic poetry of the artist’s friends Blaise Cendrars (who named this canvas) and Guillaume Apollinaire.

My thoughts:
I first saw this painting in a fantastic PMA exhibition entitled “Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle” that examined Chagall’s time in Paris and the influences that he acquired there from artists such as Alexander Archipenko, Moïse Kisling, Moïse Kogan, Jacques Lipchitz, Chaim Soutine, Ossip Zadkine, Fernand Leger, and Amedeo Modigliani. If you’ve seen me in the dining hall at Swarthmore, you’ve probably noticed that I painted a ceramic plate with my poor version of this painting as well.

It really is a gorgeous painting, and I think it lives up to Chagall’s labeling that I’ve seen in some textbooks as a Surrealist. He nicely balances the composition with the window on the left side that extends almost from the top to bottom of the canvas with the two-faced figure, the Eiffel Tower, and the parachutist on the right. He uses color in an imaginative, unexpected way, with patches of unmixed primary and secondary colors like blue, red, yellow, and green. Like all of Chagall’s paintings and much of those of other Modernists, this painting reflects Chagall’s personal feelings about Paris, which he renders in a dreamy, lyrical fashion.

One Response to “Painting of the Day”

  1. tara November 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    THis is one of my favorite paintings. I have seen it reproduced on a clay plate and was absolutely beautiful.

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