signed Marc Chagall and dated 1914 (lower left)
In anticipation of his first major solo exhibition at Der Sturm in Berlin, Chagall departed Paris in June of 1914. Following the opening, Chagall continued on to Vitebsk to attend the wedding of his sister Zina, and to spend time with his beloved Bella. Although he planned to return to Paris after 3 months, the outbreak of World War I prevented his return. It is during this time Chagall finds his art overwhelmingly influenced by his homeland and the people which populate his everyday life in Russia. In the present work, Chagall depicts two Russians going about their daily chores with their horse and cart. The man in the foreground, with his heavy beard, thick boots and cap, represents the Russian farmer who will reappear in Chagall’s work each time he reminisces about Vitebsk. Further connecting himself to the present work is his signature, which appears at lower left as well as on the door of the fence in the background, as though it leads to the artist’s home.
According to Franz Meyer, Chagall’s return to Vitebsk inspired a renewed interest in his heritage and heralded a stylistic shift in his work, 'The result was that, after taking an intensely active part in the development of international art for several years, he now suddenly found himself relegated to the more colorless, narrower, and less glorious reality of his native town… As a result his artistic encounter now took a different turn. Between 1914 and 1915 Chagall’s profound attachment to his native town inspired him with fifty or sixty "documents" as he calls them. Many are almost naturalistic descriptions of his surroundings, his parents, his brother and sisters, his neighbors, and the landscape: These pictures, as Fannina W. Halles says, expressed "the joy of the prodigal son, of reunion and recovery after a long separation. And besides that: there is also the joy of the discoverer who observes his ‘new world’ with entirely new eyes. And who now greets and embraces it and pieces together its fragments with the same glowing passion with which previously in Paris he had disintegrated its forms into a thousand pieces' (Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall, New York, 1963, p. 217).
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