Over the city

Marc Chagall • Painting, 1918, 141×197 cm
About the artwork
This artwork was added since it is referred to in the materials below
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Genre scene
Style of art: Surrealism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1918
Size: 141×197 cm
Artwork in collection: State Tretyakov gallery Irina Olikh
Artwork in selections: 239 selections

Description of the artwork «Over the city»

"I suddenly felt as if we were taking off. You too were poised on one leg, as if the little room could no longer contain you. You soar up to the ceiling. Your head turned down to me, and turned mine up to you... We flew over fields of flowers, shuttered houses, roofs, yards, churches." That’s how Marc Chagall’s fiancée, Bella Goldenberg, remembered the elation of their engagement history.

Over the Town is one of the most famous paintings by Marc Chagall. You can almost believe the feeling of the flight in the painting. His love pictures are among the most vivid imaginings of human flight. The couple dart like tadpoles, they tug like kites in a strong breeze. In Over the Town, the picture has left the ground too. The flyers are large, compared with the townscape down there. The curve of the ground beneath them reflects their aerial perspective on the world. He is holding his wife close as she waives one hand open through the air. The homes below them are all the same color, except for one red house in the background. There are also wooden fences present around most of the homes. The sky is more of a white than a blue and both people are wearing darker clothes to make them stand out among all the light colors.

Chagall’s muse Bella was the sophisticated daughter of a wealthy jeweler. The little brat tested her parents’ patience when she decided to marry the hopeful artist. Thankfully, Chagall went from being a meager apprentice to being a hot-shot modern artist who seemed to live off of women’s audible gasps at the sight of his scandalous images.

In the painting, the artist depicted everything he had important in his then life: himself, his beloved wife Bella and Vitsebsk. Ignoring the gravity, happy lovers fly over the town in an embrace. They leave Vitsebsk far below, carved and girded with endless fences. In the same year, Chagall would fall into a short period of fascination by the new government and put some unique graffiti on these fences, painting them for the anniversary of the October Revolution.

The special effect of the picture is created by a touching combination of everyday moments and going beyond them. A spicy detail: take a look at the bottom left corner. What happens under the fence? Quite right, someone has pulled off his pants and eases himself! What a surprise, one of the most romantic paintings by Chagall! Its romanticism, its charm is very special, as it unites the contraries: the flight, and the bare ass, and the elegant outfit of Bella, which in fact is also not an abstract beautiful exalted lady. The artist’s figure is cubed, while Bella is painted in soft round lines. She is more than real, her lace ruffles on the dress, detailed shoes are painted so carefully... Subsequently, art historians would often wonder how one could create an endless symphony of love and dedicate it to a real woman who lived with him for many years! Probably, such approach requires a special look, allowing to see both the flight of his wife’s soul, and the details of her dress.