Marc Chagall. I and the Village. 1911
Marc Chagall

I and the Village

On view
Oil on canvas
6' 3 5/8" x 59 5/8" (192.1 x 151.4 cm)
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
Object number
© 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Painting and Sculpture

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."

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 63

Provenance Research Project
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Acquired by Nell Walden (1887-1975), Berlin, 1916 [1]; returned to Marc Chagall, Paris, 1926 [2]; purchased from the artist by René Gaffé, Brussels, February 22, 1926 [3]; acquired by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, June 13, 1945.
[1] Karoline Hille, Marc Chagall und das deutsche Publikum, Cologne: Böhlau, 2005, p. 55, p. 271, no. 15. Included in Chagall's solo exhibition at Herwarth Walden's Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin, [May/June] 1914. Herwarth Walden, Expressionismus: Die Kunstwende, Berlin: Der Sturm, 1918, p. 21.
[2] See letter Nell Walden, Schinznach to James Johnson Sweeney, New York, November 14, 1946, Collection files, Department of Painting and Sculpture, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
[3] Reproduced in René Gaffé, "Réflexions d'un collectionneur," Cahiers de Belgique, vol. 2, no. 2 (February 1929), p. 60. Included in the exhibition Art In Our Time: 10th Anniversary Exhibiton, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 10-September 30, 1939, no. 184. On extended loan from Gaffé to The Museum of Modern Art, New York during the war.

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This work is on view on Floor 5, in Painting and Sculpture I, Gallery 3, with 12 other works online.
Marc Chagall has 167 works online.
There are 2,048 paintings online.