After a sojourn in Russia after his French residency, where he watched the rise of Suprematism, and a period in America, Chagall eventually returned to France which remained his adopted home. Yet his childhood village remained at the forefront of his imagination and artistic expression. The town survived only in his fantasy as, having been construed mostly of wood, it was irrevocably destroyed by fire during World War II. Dominating the composition of Au Village Rouge, we see the familiar landscape of Chagall’s native Vitebsk. The life he experienced in this rural region was the subject of his earliest forays into artistic expression and remained a mainstay of his personal symbolism (see figs. 1 & 2). Au Village Rouge evokes the fantasy and harmony of Russian rural life; accompanied by a full moon and farm animals, the figures embody a world of lyrical childhood memories that provided emotional and mental refuge for the artist. Vitebsk was also the location where Chagall met his beloved wife Bella, whom he married in 1915 (see fig. 3).
“The fact that I made use of cows, milkmaids, roosters and provincial Russian architecture as my source forms is because they are part of the environment from which I spring and which undoubtedly left the deepest impression on my visual memory of the experiences I have” Chagall explained (quoted in B. Harshav, ed., Marc Chagall on Art and Culture, Stanford, 2003, p. 83). Among his recurring imagery, Chagall also revisits the embracing couple and the mother and child. Tucked away in the top right corner we can see a couple lovingly floating through the village skyline recalling the setting of his first love. Au Village Rouge constitutes a nostalgic voyage as Chagall revisits his earliest memories of happiness, love and fatherhood as he approaches the last years of his life.
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