After three decades of gracing the Philadelphia Museum of Art‘s Lenfest Hall, Marc Chagall’s A Wheatfield on a Summer’s Afternoon has come down and will be leaving Philadelphia for an indefinite amount of time. The massive thirty-by-fifty foot tempera-on-fabric will be sent to Japan’s Aomori Museum of Art, where, for the next four years, it will join the other three backdrops Chagall had created for Aleko, the 1942 ballet production by Léonide Massine for the Ballet Theatre of New York (now American Ballet Theatre) Chagall was originally commissioned to create the four backdrops for. He completed them in Mexico City.
photo by Clem Murray
When conceptualizing the set for Aleko, Chagall has said, “I want the color to play and speak alone.” In the creation of Wheatfield, he did so by using intense tones of red with minimal use of symbolic elements. The enormous sun monopolizes the composition, seducing both Aleko and the audience away from city life, towards its quixotic rays. Meanwhile, the ominous scythe hides ever so subtly.
Art for Marc Chagall was a means of personal expression as his imagery and allegories were uniquely sourced from his own personal narrative. He considered himself autonomous from other artists–as any artist will tell you that–although his style, much influenced by the work of his Parisian painter friends Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger, has been described as a hybrid of Cubism, Fauvism, and Symbolism.
Now as the (both literal and proverbial) rays are shipped off to the East, PMA visitors will have to get used to a bare wall–for the time being. According to philly.com, “Sunday was the enormous work’s last day on display for an unspecified while, and its last-ever day in that spot. The wall on which it has hung will itself soon be gone, excised as part of the museum’s coming massive renovation.”
As the show must go on: take care, dear friend; your rays greeted us kindly and kept us warm.