Marc Chagall Prints

Written by Serena Berger
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Marc Chagall prints show the warmth of this great artist, a warmth that was directed with equal openness at different points in his career toward his beloved wife and the global community of Jews before and during the Second World War. Chagall's great humanitarianism was always a theme in his work. People who love and hate Chagall often cite some of the same qualities in his work as their reasons: the innocence of his style, the childlike renderings of the subject matter, and a distinct lack of influence by other modern schools of painting.

One of the best-known Marc Chagall prints is I and the Village, from 1911. If anything, this is the artist's work that does most clearly owe a debt to another painter (Picasso), yet there is a lightness of to the painting, which makes it clearly and entirely Chagall's spirit that is radiated by the piece. A green man, a woman getting milk, a quiet village, a lovely tree, and one decidedly happy white goat are among the images in this work, all rendered with a softness and obvious affection.

Thematic Innocence in Marc Chagall Prints

If I and the Village is painted from the child's heart, The Lovers is painted by the young man who idealized his romantic love the way the child idealized his family and home. In the foreground, a man tenderly holds his love, whose arms are filled with flowers. There is a warm, sunny glow cast over them ... and in the background is a decidedly happy white goat.

If this sounds amusing, you really need to see it for yourself; these goats are actually known through the world of art scholars as "Chagall Goats." The white goat is a motif that reappears in many Marc Chagall prints, a recurrence that is particularly interesting in light of the inversion of the goat's mythic symbolism. Many artists and writers have used the goat to symbolize the devil or aspects of debauchery, stemming back to the Greek god Pan, who was half goat and got in a lot of trouble letting his animal instincts run wild. For Chagall, however, these white goats symbolize innocence, purity, and hope; they were a source of milk for his poor family when he was a child, and he always liked to play with them. Seeing the transformation of the goat in his more mature work War , with the goat losing much of its wide-eyed innocence, is particularly heart wrenching when viewed in the context of his entire body of work.


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