French, born Belorussia, 1887 ‑ 1985
Waiting (L’Attente), 1967
Oil on canvas
36 3/8 × 25 5/8 × 7/8 in. (92.4 × 65.1 × 2.2 cm.)
Bequest from the Nancy Batson Rash and Dillman A. Rash Collection 1998.19.1
Visions of Home
This painting captures a dream-like vision of painter Marc Chagall’s hometown of Vitebsk, located in presentday Belarus. Rendered in brilliant blues, yellows, reds, and greens, the painting reflects Chagall’s signature use of vibrant colors and figures which appear to float effortlessly above the landscape. Vitebsk was a place of mostly pleasant memories for Chagall. The city fostered Chagall’s lifelong love of Jewish folklore. There he married his first wife Bella Rosenfeld (who is likely the female figure depicted in this painting), and he founded the Vitebsk People’s Art College in 1918. Chagall had high hopes for Vitebsk, writing in 1919 that
the city had transformed from a “provincial backwater” into a place for “revolutionary art.” Within a year, however, the competing modernist style of Suprematism, championed by painter Kasmir Malevich, rapidly gained traction and was among the reasons Chagall resigned from the College in 1920. Chagall left Vitebsk that year, never to return. Lovingly painted fortyseven years later, L’Attente presents Vitebsk as a place of misty memories, myths, and nostalgia.