Modern and Contemporary Art


  • Marc Chagall 1887, Russia -1985, France
  • Solitude
  • 1933
  • Oil on canvas
  • 102x169cm
  • Gift of the artist, 1953

In most of his works Chagall combined elements of an often paradoxical and richly imaginative world with identifiable, local and autobiographical elements. His compositions may simultaneously contain allusions to the Bible and to Jewish history, as well as references to contemporary reality.
Solitude is one of many works by Chagall whose imagery is symbolic and metaphoric; it has been interpreted as alluding to various events of destruction and sacrifice in Jewish history. The solitary Jew sitting on the ground holding a Torah scroll against the background of smoke-enveloped buildings may be the Prophet Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem, or a Jew lamenting the persecution of his people in Russia or elsewhere.
Solitude's creation coincided with Nazi rise to power in Germany and is seen as heralding the horrors of the Holocaust. The theme of sacrifice is represented here by the white heifer, whose radiant horns evoke flames; the violin is one of the emblems of the East European Jewish town, while the hovering angel connotes eternal hope.

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