Marc Chagall

“Le grand visage” is a compositionally diverse self-portrait that distills Chagall’s signature style to its gestures, motifs and visual language influenced by a combination of Cubism, Fauvism, and Surrealism.
Within this work on paper, a central androgenous representation of Chagall emerges, characterised by delicate eyelashes and flowing hair. This portrayal seems to position him as a symbol for all artists, aligning him with the act of painting itself. However, his identity is solidified through the presence of a palette and three brushes he holds, with ‘CHAGALL’ distorted onto the palette itself.
The central focus of “Le grand visage” is the monumental self-portrait, but the broader composition serves as a visual representation of Chagall’s mind, featuring his characteristic motifs. The “overs’ motif diagonally crosses the artist’s face, while a fiddle player dangles from the upper-left corner. In the lower-left, Vitebsk is depicted, embodying its rural essence through a yellow donkey and a man with a pipe that also appear in the composition.
As the artist explained in 1958 (around the time the work was produced): “Art, without Love – whether we are ashamed or not to use that well-known word – such a plastic art would open the wrong door.” (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, ed., Chagall: A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 179)
The essence of this philosophy resonates strongly within “Le grand visage”. The piece powerfully reinforces the artist’s love for the act of painting, his most iconic motifs, and his upbringing in Vitebsk.

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