Former title: The Rabbit
Oil on canvas
The Dream (1927) by Marc Chagall, a Russian artist who arrived in Paris in 1909 and stayed there until 1914 and then again from 1923 to 1941, before settling permanently there after the war, is the only example of his paintings in the museum and was donated by Emmanuel Sarmiento in 1936.
This work was created during the period when Ambroise Vollard commissioned him to produce illustrations for a book about the circus which was never published. In an arid, schematic landscape with three skeletal trees, a fence, the sky and the moon there is a “rabbit-donkey” (often dubbed “the rabbit”) a wondrous, ill-proportioned creature bearing away a bare-breasted reclining woman. This conjures up Dali’s Hysterical Arch, Füssli’s Nightmare, or even the rape of Europa, so often depicted in Western art, giving the painting overt sexual overtones. One can also discern an allusion to a female horse rider performing a vault at the circus. The title, The Dream, which rejects the pull of the Earth, might have appealed to the Surrealists at one time as they were eager to attract everybody who believed in their theories. However, Chagall continued to make his figures fly, radiant with joy, above the town (e.g. Above Vitebsk) or above a landscape. Colour plays a role in conjuring up the dream: the donkey is a reddish violet, the field is yellow and the night sky is a dazzling blue. These bright, glowing colours help to give it a cheerful, dreamlike feel typical of Chagall’s work.