On the surface, Icarus is a complex composition with intricate sub-textual references to various mythologies. There are many levels that reward further exploration shown by Icarus. For instance, like in many paintings by Chagall and other artists who were inspired by primitivism, the extreme flatness of space recalls medieval manuscript illustrations of religious stories. For instance, in the top left, viewers can see Icarus suspended in a bubble-like space formed from the U-shaped motif of his extended arms and legs.
Fractured forms with soft edges are a feature of Chagall's work. Viewers can also see the billowing landscape and clouds in the bottom right and the landscape at the upper left. However, the scene portrayed in the bottom right corner is more traditional and recalls other works by Chagall of this period depicting a forest with a river and bridge.
Chagall explains a story of ambition and the desire for freedom that Icarus had. For one to fly so close to the sun, one must be completely self-powered. Daedalus had constructed the wings, but Icarus, not having sufficient strength to soar on his own, was forced down into the sea. According to Chagall, Icarus puts self-love before love for others and this lead to him dying by drowning as opposed to soaring majestically through the clouds, like Daedalus.
Marc Chagall is one of the world's most famous living painters and came from a family closely identified with islands since the 17th Century. In his long and productive creative life, Marc Chagall ventured into almost every genre imaginable: portraiture, still-life, landscape, cityscape. The Fall of Icarus is among his best and most educative works.
In addition to its obvious symbolism, one of the most striking facets of Icarus is how profoundly it conveys feelings regarding flight, dreams, movement, and death. Most viewers have pointed out how the graceful arc of Icarus' body falls into the sea. He plunged into the sea, and his remains were found in a crumpled heap. It shows how he failed. Chagall's complex narrative and visual structure impart a sense of movement, taking advantage of linear perspective to create an illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. Today, the Fall of Icarus painting sits at Leningrad's Russian Museum and brings in thousands of visitors.