The Birthday (1915)
“In life, just as on the artist’s palette, there is but one single colour that
gives meaning to life and art — the colour of love.” ~Marc Chagall
When [Marc] Chagall married Bella [Rosenfeld] on 25 July 1915, her socially superior family was still expressing grave misgivings about the match…During this year his art concerned itself above all with their union, simultaneously sensual and transcendent. “I had only to open my window, and blue air, love and flowers entered with her. Dressed all in white or in black, she has long been flying over my canvases guiding my art.”
From the moment they fell for each other in 1909, Marc Chagall and his wife, Bella, seemed to share a particular way of seeing the world. Bella was a talented writer and her description of their first encounter is like a Chagall painting in words: “When you did catch a glimpse of his eyes, they were as blue as if they’d fallen straight out of the sky. They were strange eyes … long, almond-shaped … and each seemed to sail along by itself, like a little boat.”
Bella swiftly became Marc’s muse and continued to visit his canvases for the rest of his life. Famously, he often depicted himself and Bella flying together, as if their shared joy had such physical force it countermanded the law of gravity itself. In Birthday, they appear surprised by their flight, rising towards the ceiling like two astonished bubbles of ecstasy.