This piece was a design to be used for a curtain at the Gogol festival, according to the brief notes held on it by its present owners, MoMA. The festival is carried out today in the Ukraine, in the city of Kiev under the name of Gogolfest but this is unrelated to the original event around which this artwork is based. Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol was actually a 19th century Russian novelist who is continually celebrated across this region, with several other festivals and permanent theatres named after him.
Chagall liked to draw in all manner of different styles and the figurative work found here has elements of Surrealism in how the body and legs are contorted into entirely unnatural and unrealistic positions. The artist started with a beautiful tone of yellow which fills the background before appending the portrait over the top. There are then some additional elements added to symbolise certain things, which you might not notice on first viewing. For example, a small building is placed just above one foot, whilst a hand tightly holds a wreath. There is then some lettering which is added underneath the arched body, which is filled in with tones of red and green in order to help it stand out from the background.
This drawing from 1917 can be found in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, USA. The hold over 200 artworks from Chagall's career in total, across a number of different mediums, including oil paintings, watercolours and lithographs. They hold one of the most extraordinary collections in the world, and most of the different items were produced between the mid to late 19th century up to the end of the 20th century, with Chagall's career spanning much of that period. He was able to draw in a variety of new styles that appeared during that time, and then work it into his own considerable imagination and talent to produce something that was eventually fairly unique. The most famous painting of all to find in this New York-based institution would have to be Van Gogh's Starry, Starry Night.
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