Oil on canvas
117 x 73.5 cm
Musée national d’art moderne - Centre de Création Industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, entrusted to the Musée national Marc Chagall
One of the French State’s first purchases from the artist in 1934, this painting was completed in 1930 after a long spell spent working on the circus, at the request of the dealer Vollard. Vollard had a box at the Cirque d’Hiver that he made available to the artists who worked for him. Chagall thus did numerous gouache paintings on this theme in 1926 and 1927, collectively referred to as “cirque Vollard”, although no publication followed this work. For all that, the painter printed several paintings and Chagall would then come back to this theme time and again, seeing in the circus performer the acrobat – an allegory of the artist in general.
The composition pits a sky in delicate shades of blue, pink and yellow against the bright colours of the acrobat’s costume and the scenery.
The landscape is reminiscent of Chagall’s gouache paintings during his various stop-offs around France once he had moved there permanently. The artist therefore presents a quintessential French village street with its bakery and shops, leading to a church with a Romanesque doorway.
The acrobat wears a rich costume whose flowers have been painted in layers of thickly dabbed paint. Although anatomically incorrect, she remains graceful and light. A man’s face can be seen appearing in the sky to give her a kiss: implying that she has love on her mind.