Le Baiser is a quintessential example of Chagall's mastery in assembling an array of folkloric images in a dense and colorful composition. This work contains several of the most crucial elements of the artist's pictorial iconography: symbols of his agrarian roots and domesticity and a landscape evoking both the villages of his childhood home in Vitebsk and the Mediterranean coastal towns in the South of France. In this tender portrayal of a young couple caught in a loving embrace, the lovers are enveloped in wildly varying bright blocks of color. Chagall frequently portrayed lovers floating in an oneiric state through fluid spaces often replete with dream-like imagery from his symbolic cosmos of male and female figures, animals and objects.
The sharply delineated sections recall the aesthetic of stained glass, a medium that occupied much of Chagall’s time during the 1960s (see fig. 1). Moreover, the prevailing blue tones emphasize the sense of reflection and nostalgia that characterizes many of his later works. By 1981 Chagall had much to reflect on and Vitebsk remained at the forefront of his mind. Yet he had been happily settled in Vence in the South of France for many years. Widely acclaimed and commercially sought after, he could reflect in comfort on his artistic success, a position consolidated in the 1970s by the opening of the Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice in 1973 and by the presentation of the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1977.
The couple is depicted with extraordinary sincerity, a tenderness compounded by the presence of the artist’s favored motifs: vibrant flowers, a shining moon, a chicken and his beloved hometown, the shtetls of Vitebsk.