The Russian Marc Chagall painted I and the Village while living in La Ruche (The Beehive), an artists’ commune in Paris.
It is dated 1911, but Chagall’s dates are often inaccurate. He did not mark them immediately after their completion but much later and often relied on an inner time schedule rather than the facts of the calendar.
His paintings deny reality in the same way.
When he arrived in Paris the dominant artistic trend was Cubism. Chagall used the Cubist’s obsession with perception as a technical starting point – it inspired him to arrange his motifs in a circular motion around a centre rather than a straight line of imagery like in his earlier Birth.
Although he uses the sectional, slicing techniques of the Cubists, he also employed the vivid colours of the Fauves combined with the dreamlike imagery of Jewish Folk art.
The poet Guillaume Apollinaire (who would later coin Surrealism) called Chagall’s work surnaturel. Chagall denied the label of Surrealist. He claimed –
The entire world within us is reality
This painting was named by Blaise Cendrars, who wrote a poem about Chagall –
He reaches for a church paints with a church
He reaches for a cow paints with a cow
There is no punctuation and the lines do not make grammatical sense but that does not make them untrue. Chagall was not using a village or a goat to paint, or even looking at them when he painted, he used his memories and conceptions to create images that were, to him, more real than the factual world he faced.
I and the Villiage, 1911