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Reflections of a full life

The beauty of MarcChagall's poetics is seen in this self-portrait, the way he orchestrates colors and symbols, the geometry of his conscience. Typically, Chagall assembles diverse images in a delicate, nostaligic song with exotic intonations. Their disposition is often outside everyday logic.Flotsam of memory emerge of their own accord, superimposing themselves one on the other, quite naturally as during sleep or in daydreams. In contrast is a clear desire of pictorial organization. A recognizable rhythm bestows artistic significance on the picture.

Chagall is guided by his own theories. "The painting, the color, are they not inspired by love? Painting, is it not the reflection of the inner self?Color makes the drama and creates the emotion. It has its own innate power, does not depend on manner, form, or the authority of the brush. The real content of painting enters by way of color."

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In the self-portrait the dominant color note is the mystic, varying, Chagallian blue. In the landscape it approaches green, and in the artist's jacket verges on purple, while the bird's comb glows red.

The figure of the bride creates a dynamic diagonal across the frontal picture plane as her lighter-than-air form drifts to rest on the forehead of Chagall. The palette in hand leaves no doubt that the man is he, much younger than at present. A visionary, faraway look of childlike wonderment fills his eyes. Time's fixation gets lost in the subconscious.

The locale of this dream is Paris. A crescent moon illuminates the river Seine, its bridges and islands, the cathedral of Notre Dame and the spire of the Sainte Chapelle. Chagall's bewitched world, incontrovertibly his, permits birds -- symbolizing innocent wisdom -- to participate freely.

As memories echo and re-echo ceaselessly, his imagination upsets gravity, offers vague suggestions of distance, confounds yesterday and today.

The artist observes: "All my life has been a vision. The privilege of my age [now 93] is being allowed to paint a picture while an entire life flows by. The canvases are full of events, my history."

A man of high religiosity, Chagall has always been captivated by the Bible, considering it "the greatest poem of all time disclosing the dream of humanity everywhere. Perfection in art and life is the issue of that biblical source; lacking this spirit, the mechanics of logic and construction do not bear fruit."

At the request of the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Marc Chagall gave this picture to be placed among its celebrated self-portraits. The collection, initiated by Leopoldo Cardinal de' Medici in the 17th century, includes more than four hundred prestigious artists, mainly of the past. Among them are Raphael, Leonardo, Titian, Corot, Delacroix, Reynolds, Rubens, Rembrandt, and Velazquez.

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Chagall has always painted feverishly, taking pleasure in his inner powers, his psychic charge. The older he gets, the more freshness he manifests. Like a tide it carries him to greater splendor.

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