Oil on card mounted on canvas
50.7 x 38 cm
Musée national d’art moderne - Centre de Création Industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, entrusted to the Musée national Marc Chagall
This painting was undoubtedly painted upon Chagall’s return to Russia in 1914.
His self-portraits, for the most part, show him at the easel, with his studio visible to varying degrees. Here Chagall adopts a common theme from Western painting, portraying himself at work and thereby asserting his status in society. The genre enables the painter to question his art in a self-reflexive approach and to suggest answers of a distinct allegorical nature. Chagall deliberately abides by this long tradition and depicts his muse on the canvas, Bella, his fiancée at the time whom he would marry in 1915.
His handling juxtaposes several influences from his Parisian training. The painter’s face is done using the Fauvist technique, with one half lit-up and the other half in green shadow.
The composition rejects all of the items around the painting’s edge. This centrifugal movement reveals an empty space in the middle of the painting which is at odds with tradition and instead highlights Chagall’s modern take on a classical theme.