The Grey House, Marc Chagall
' If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion.'
T.S Eliot, Little Gidding
In The Grey House Marc Chagall was returning to and painting his hometown of Vitebsk. I wonder to what extent Chagall, painting on the outskirts on the route in to the town, is putting off 'sense and notion' and how much of this is a reminiscent indulgence. I remember seeing this painting in the Bornemisza Thyssen Museum, Madrid when I was ten and being particularly interested in the small, blended-grey figure of a man in the left corner. Is it Chagall himself? Memory certainly has the power to split the self, between here and now, there and then. We have a sense that Chagall's memories have gained the status of folklore; the cobbled path, the wooden cabin, could all be a part of the scenery of Hansel and Gretel.
As I write this I remember that what I wanted to talk about was the dream-like qualities of Chagall. I am also realising that my knowledge of his work hinges on a single painting seen in Madrid and The Bride which Julia Roberts gives to Hugh Grant in Notting Hill. So although it may seem like an obvious choice here is The Bride.
There is so much in this painting that recalls the medieval dream. The upward motion of the composition in which gravity appears to have dissolved is very evocative, I can't help but feel myself freeing from the world and floating in to the canvas. The Bride is illuminated, her red dress and ethereal veil drawing her from the blue even as she is absorbed in to it. At her veil is her dream guide, coaxing and encouraging. Then there is the small bestiary of animals that accompany her stiff dance in to the sky. This is like the anxious pre-wedding dream of a bride; it contains all of the fear and all of the excitement of this impending celebration. The blue of the painting is the typical dream-scape on which Chagall creates, but I think I need to do more reading before I can say more on this.
Dreaming with Chagall is a beautiful, soothing diversion.