Intro to Marc Chagall: A Dark Undertone

Artist Marc Chagall was greatly inspired by Vitebsk, the Russian city where he was born and raised in the midst of a thriving Jewish community. Chagall saw the world through a prism melding memory and imagination. He made no attempt at realistically recreating childhood remembrances. Rather, he painted vibrant fantasies based upon those remembrances. I use two Chagall paintings, The Rooster and Big Sun, as the root images for this animation. The two paintings capture Chagall’s largely positive vision of life, but they also possess a dark undertone. Chagall depicted animals in whimsical relation to human beings, showing people feeding off spiritual energy flowing from animals they are interacting with. The above-mentioned dark undertone is more evident in Big Sun, painted in 1958, than in The Rooster, painted in 1929. In his heart of hearts Chagall fully realized he was romanticizing the past. By 1929 the Soviet Revolution had completely transformed Russia. Physically Vitebsk was still the same place, but the revolution’s impact permeated every aspect of Russian life. The Rooster possesses a palpable sadness. By the time Chagall painted Big Sun, WWII bombings had nearly completely destroyed Vitebsk. Thus a mournful undertone manifests in the painting, despite the obvious joy in the faces of its two lovers. The Nazi Holocaust looms over Chagall’s post WWII work. The Jewish population of Vitebsk had been largely wiped out when the city was under Nazi occupation. In essence, my animation animates the darker aspects of The Rooster and Big Sun. I dedicate this animation to Laurie Spiegel, whose love of and insights into animals helped me see the raw beauty in the two Chagall paintings I herein process/transform.

Animation duration: 41.3 seconds, before looping.

Peter Schmideg

View Marc Chagall: A Dark Undertone