The green donkey is a motif Chagall employed in multiple works throughout the course of his life, often alongside a couple such as that in Le Printemps. It is symbolic of the Jewish-Russian peasantry and folk traditions of his hometown of Vitebsk (now in present day Belarus), where at the beginning of the twentieth century Jews constituted half the population. The city was fully destroyed during the Second World War, and most of the local Jews residing in the city perished along with it. The painting seems to unite the peace and adoration characteristic of Chagall’s later life alongside Vava with the ever-present, more melancholic memories of his youth and of a life that decades earlier had been overturned by Hitler’s rise to power. Chagall can be considered one of the great biographical artists of the twentieth century, as he invests all of his pictures with deeply personal images from his humble past in Belarus, his splendid years in Paris, and his blissful marriage in the later years of his life. Le Printemps is a quintessential example Chagall's ability to fuse all of these references within one extraordinary composition.
The journalist Alexander Liberman, who visited Chagall in the late 1950s, eloquently described the complexity and intimacy of Chagall's paintings: "Like a human being, a Chagall painting reveals its rich complexity only if one has lived with it and in it, in the way the artist has during its creation. One must look at his paintings closely to experience their full power. After the impact of the overall effect, there is the joy of the close-up discovery. In this intimate scrutiny, the slightest variation takes on immense importance. We cannot concentrate for a long time; our senses tire quickly and we need, after moments of intense stimulation, periods of rest. Chagall understands this visual secret better than most painters; he draws our interest into a corner where minute details hold it, and when we tire of that, we rest, floating in a space of color, until the eye lands on a new small island of quivering life" (Alexander Liberman, "The Artist in His Studio," 1958, reprinted in Jacob Baal-Teshuva, Chagall: A Retrospective, New York, 1995, p. 337).
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