In the modest Russian town of Vitebsk, there was a creative explosion that became one of the most influential gateways to the art of the 20th century. Vitebsk was the birth place of many influential artists, such as Yuri Moiseevich Pen, Leon Gaspard and Lazar Khidekel, who all began to express their artistic ideas within the same time period. Vitebsk is also the birthplace of Marc Chagall, the creator of the painting Maternity and innovator of Fauvism. Vitebsk at the time period was a town located in the Russian Empire. The town was located within the limits of the Pale of Settlement. Author Margot Singer stated, "The Pale of Settlement covered roughly, 20 percent of European Russia during the 1800s and early 1900s, when it was abolished in 1917" (Singer).
The Pale of Settlement is now modern Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and Latvia. The Pale of Settlement was created as a safe haven for Jewish peoples in the regions. At its height, the Pale had a Jewish population of over five million and represented forty percent of the Jewish population at the time. As I said, the town of Vitebsk lied within the Pale, during 1887 Marc Chagall was born in Vitebsk, where his artistic inspiration began. Marc Chagall was born into a devoutly Jewish environment, as Vitebsk's population was half Jewish. Life in Vitebsk was very modest for Chagall, his father worked in a fish warehouse and his mother worked in a shop that sold fish and baking supplies. But Vitebsk was also considered colorful and vibrant, due to the fact that manufacturing clothes was a main source of income and they were sold throughout the Russian Empire. Vibrancy was also shown by the diverse cultures within Vitebsk, Jewish, Russian and an influx of Orthodox Catholics, all resided within the city.
Marc Chagall chose to portray his young life in Vitebsk extensively throughout his art. I chose to view it as he used his imagination of the city, to visually create the town in his work.