“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works;
if from the head, almost nothing.” Chagall
The Apparition of the Artist’s Family (1935-47) by Marc Chagall
Musée National d’ Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Picasso said he tried to unlearn sophisticated painting and paint like a child. He managed it sometimes.
Chagall too believed in the child. He was sure there was more art in the crude figures children scrawl than in the academic likenesses by skilled painters—art as he understood it, that is, which was a direct transmission of truth to the heart, skipping the head.
Of course no grown artist can skip the head, though many have tried. Chagall brought a genius’ fine sense of color and composition to the effort. He told himself that he would not only respect the errors or distorsions that occurred naturally to him while drawing, he would exploit them. He would do away with perspective unless it served him. Color he would apply as it made a beautiful canvas and “said” what it had to say anywhere it felt like it. A figure’s right hand may be green and its left hand red. The sky may be red and the earth blue. Since the world inside Chagall was not subject to gravity, what could be wrong with an upside-down figure or with a moon under a table? Why should he force himself to finish a figure if just half served his aim? And why specify? If it might as well be a cow as a goat, let it be both—or part rooster.
To Chagall realism seemed a dangerous tyrant. It easily made a slave of an artist who had to keep to the physical facts of the world, though perhaps his aim was never to show that objective world at all but rather his own INNER world of dreams and fantasies.
For him those were about his childhood and youth in Russia. Inside he was full of what happened then, when the world was new. His parents, his friends, the rabbis and the religious ceremonies of the poor Jewish community, the animals, the streets and wooden houses, the fiddler, the dancer, the clown.
He turned them into the poetic images of his pictures.
It seems, however, that he didn’t start with them but with color and abstract shapes. His companion Virginia Haggard wrote about how Chagall invented the sets for Stravinski’s Firebird:
“For days, Marc listened to the Firebird music…At once he began to float in Stravinski’s music, thoroughly tuned in to its powerful archaic rhythms. He started sketching feverishly, jotting down ideas, sometimes in color, sometimes in pencil. They were barely more than abstract shapes or colors, but they contained the living seeds out of which would grow birds, trees and monsters. He let them soak in pools of color until something started moving.”
from My Life with Chagall by Virginia Haggard
A wedding turned out to be the subject of this beautiful abstract painting.
Ida Chagall Collection