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Compositional Study for ‘To Russia, to the Asses and Others’

Artist: Marc Chagall
(Vitebsk 1887 – 1985 Saint-Paul-de-Vence)

Date: 1911–1912
Medium: gouache on paper
Dimensions: 430 × 345 mm
Classification: drawing
Inventory Number: K.69.48
Department: Prints and Drawings

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Compositional Study for ‘To Russia, to the Asses and Others’

Chagall was born as one of ten children into a Jewish family in Vitebsk, near St Petersburg, the former Russian capital. First he left Russia for four years in 1910, and then left for good in 1924. “My art is rooted in the soil of Vitebsk, yet it needed Paris just like a tree needs water,” wrote Chagall in his autobiography, explaining his dual – French-Russian – identity. In Paris, he first established close relationships with poets and other artists of the Montparnasse study colony “La Ruche”. In this company making Chagall possible to familiarise himself with Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism. His art owes much to his circle of friends: several picture titles were inspired by the poets; the liberated colours and the angular, Cubist forms by the painters. Nonetheless, Chagall’s roots also come to surface in this picture of a small town and its folk tale atmosphere, which also inspired the Russian Secession. The floating figure, losing his head, and the pinkish red donkey breastfeeding the infant could as well be motives from a dream or a folktale. The composition is related to the 1912 painting To Russia, Asses and Others (Musée d’ Art Moderne, Paris). It is possible that it is a draft or study for the painting.

Kata Bodor