Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Incredibly Close

This is my favorite painting of all time and I’ve wanted to see it in person for years. Currently it’s “not on view” at MoMA. I’ve been to MoMA before and was disappointed that it wasn’t on view at that time either. WTF MoMA?

I and the Village
Marc Chagall. (French, born Belarus. 1887-1985). I and the Village. 1911. Oil on canvas, 6' 3 5/8" x 59 5/8" (192.1 x 151.4 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Painted the year after Chagall came to Paris, I and the Village evokes his memories of his native Hasidic community outside Vitebsk. In the village, peasants and animals lived side by side, in a mutual dependence here signified by the line from peasant to cow, connecting their eyes. The peasant's flowering sprig, symbolically a tree of life, is the reward of their partnership. For Hasids, animals were also humanity's link to the universe, and the painting's large circular forms suggest the orbiting sun, moon (in eclipse at the lower left), and earth.

The geometries of I and the Village are inspired by the broken planes of Cubism, but Chagall's is a personalized version. As a boy he had loved geometry: "Lines, angles, triangles, squares," he would later recall, "carried me far away to enchanting horizons." Conversely, in Paris he used a disjunctive geometric structure to carry him back home. Where Cubism was mainly an art of urban avant-garde society, I and the Village is nostalgic and magical, a rural fairy tale: objects jumble together, scale shifts abruptly, and a woman and two houses, at the painting's top, stand upside-down. "For the Cubists," Chagall said, "a painting was a surface covered with forms in a certain order. For me a painting is a surface covered with representations of things . . . in which logic and illustration have no importance."

I also want to see this in person before I kick the bucket and this one is “on view” at MoMA.
Christina’s World
Andrew Wyeth. (American, born 1917). 1948.
Tempera on gessoed panel, 32 1/4 x 47 3/4" (81.9 x 121.3 cm).


The woman crawling through the tawny grass was the artist's neighbor in Maine, who, crippled by polio, "was limited physically but by no means spiritually." Wyeth further explained, "The challenge to me was to do justice to her extraordinary conquest of a life which most people would consider hopeless." He recorded the arid landscape, rural house, and shacks with great detail, painting minute blades of grass, individual strands of hair, and nuances of light and shadow. In this style of painting, known as magic realism, everyday scenes are imbued with poetic mystery.

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