Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cubism (pt. 6)

A late Expressionist, Marc Chagall practiced Cubism in his earlier works but then moved onto personal Expressionism that also took from Surrealism (which is an art movement we will look at in greater detail later).  Many of his works showcased couples, but this one, La Mariée, is particularly among his most famous paintings.
There are certainly surreal elements within the work, but Chagall operates from Expressionist approaches to subject matter.  In fact, the artist frequently used images from Jewish and Russian folktales as well as children's stories to convey aspects of cultural identity, energy, and passion.  In this painting we are entering into a realm of fantasy.  Incidentally, the subject is a young bride who is preparing for her wedding.  She carries a bouquet and wears a red dress to convey her love.  All around her are blues and muted yellows so that she is the brightest figure in the painting.  Perhaps it is taking place at night, or maybe the artist merely shoves aside the rest of the world as bleak or uninteresting; the bride is the center of focus.  Standing at a tilted angle, she appears to be receding back into the dreamy, fantasy world behind her, where a goat is playing an instrument (some kind of small cello) and other musicians are playing and dancing.  An attendant glides across the bride to fix her veil, and a fish jumps up (perhaps also in dance).  A random table, matching the bride's red dress, appears in the upper right hand corner, just floating in space over the fish.  Behind all of that is a small church, doubtless where the couple will be wed (but since it appears all the way in the background that aspect of the ceremony almost seems insignificant or undesirable).  The artist has handpicked and chosen what gets placed where; the scene comes purely from his inventive mind, and the colors, from his emotional responses to the subject.  In that sense, there's nothing real about this painting at all.
Chagall, besides carrying on the Expressionist tradition into the 20th century, built off of earlier stylistic models from Symbolist artists like Paul Gauguin.  Gauguin had sought to make his art about the untouched paradise of exotic lands and the purity of the native peoples therein.  This movement was donned Primitivism, for it featured artists' rejection of traditional painting techniques and realistic renderings for stylized, simplified work like that of native peoples and children.  The Expressionist symbolism in La Mariée certainly makes reference to Primitivism with its violin-playing goats and literally flying fish—the stuff of children's fairy tales.

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