Despite his contact with these avant-garde artists, Chagall's work remained suffused with folkloric imagery from his childhood in Vitebsk. The figure of the peddler, with a sack full of wares on his back, is central among these. In this exceptional early gouache, Chagall employs his characteristic blocks of vivid color to create a charming image of the vendor. A few years later, Chagall would modernize the figure of the traditional Jewish peddler in his seminal work, Le Marchand de journaux, which served as an allegory for the sorrows of World War I (see fig. 1).
"Chagall's great lyrical breakthrough came around 1911. This is the moment when metaphor, with him alone, made its triumphal appearance in modern painting. In order to complete the deconstruction of spatial planes that had been prepared by Rimbaud and at the same time free the object from the laws of weight and gravity, breaking down the barrier between elements and kingdoms." —André Breton, Le Surréalisme et la Peinture, 1928
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