Inside a topsy-turvy world

In the painting, people float upside down, the laws of gravity are ignored. Yet, there is something fascinating about it.

September 19, 2019 03:09 pm | Updated 03:09 pm IST

A man with a green face, wearing a funny cap, gazes into the eyes of a goat. Or perhaps it is a sheep or a cow? Their faces are calm and filled with trust for each other. A smaller picture of a woman milking a goat is painted on the animal’s cheek. The green man holds a branch filled with flowers. Is this a dream?

Wiki Commons

Wiki Commons

This is a painting by Marc Chagall, an artist born in the village of Vitebsk in modern-day Belarus. When he was in his 20s, in 1910, Chagall moved to Paris to study art. The artist missed his childhood home and created this painting called I and the Village . This was his way of going home.

Rush of colours

The artist doesn’t care about following rules. He ignores the laws of gravity. Objects are topsy-turvy in the painting. He doesn’t use the “correct” colours for things. A scene from the artist’s village appears at the top right-hand corner of the canvas. A row of houses and a church stand there. Some of the houses are upside down. A man carrying a farming tool called a scythe walks towards a woman. The woman floats upside-down. The animals in the painting show how people and animals depended on each other and lived in harmony with each other.

The images in the painting are connected to each other through lines and curves. As a boy, the artist loved geometry. “Lines, angles, triangles, squares,” he would later recall, “carried me far away to enchanting horizons.”

Chagall grew up in a Jewish village. His painting contains symbols from Jewish folktales mixed with his memories. Chagall painted his own version of a fairy-tale filled with colour and joy. You can see I and the Village at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)in New York City, the U.S.

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