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Half-Past Three (The Poet)
Half-Past Three (The Poet), 1911
Marc Chagall, French (born Russia)
Oil on canvas
6 feet 5 1/8 inches × 57 inches (195.9 × 144.8 cm)
The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950
1950-134-36
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La Ruche

Marc Chagall arrived in Paris in May 1911 and for the next four years lived and worked at a studio complex called the La Ruche (the beehive), so named because of its distinctive cylindrical shape and honeycomb-like maze of artists’ studios. Located on the southwestern fringes of Montparnasse, La Ruche was a three-story-high building with a central staircase and studios radiating out from its core. La Ruche opened in 1902 and, since the rent was minimal and artists’ models were supplied free of charge, it quickly became a thriving artists’ community, with its own theater and exhibition schedule.

By the time Chagall moved there, La Ruche had a large population of Eastern European artists who had moved to Paris to discover the most recent trends in modern art. Among the other artists to live or frequent La Ruche between 1910 and 1914 were Alexander Archipenko, Moïse Kisling, Moïse Kogan, Jacques Lipchitz, Chaim Soutine, and Ossip Zadkine. Many of these émigré artists were also attracted to the religious tolerance of Paris, which provided a relatively safe new working environment free from the pogroms and persecution that their Jewish families had endured for generations in their former homelands of Russia, Poland, and other Eastern European countries. The French artist Fernand Léger also worked at La Ruche during this time, as did the Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani, whose libertine behavior made him one of the most colorful personalities of this bohemian enclave.

Figure
Figure, 1918
Jacques Lipchitz, American (born Lithuania)
Opaque watercolor, crayon and fabricated chalks (pastel) on thin paper on gray board
Sheet: 8 11/16 x 6 1/4 inches (22.1 x 15.9 cm)
A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1952
1952-61-70
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These first years in Paris found Chagall nestled in a vibrant community of creative and likeminded artists, many of whom sought to develop unique approaches to painting or sculpture by blending their own experiences and cultural backgrounds with the latest advances in modern art. Cubism was at the time foremost amongst such progressive movements, and Chagall quickly internalized its syntax of refracted light and geometric form, reconciling it with the artistic training he had received in Russia. In the 1911 painting Half-Past Three (The Poet), he transforms a scene from everyday life at La Ruche--where friends frequently visited his studio to talk or share a drink, even in the early hours of the morning--into a dazzling masterpiece of striking color and dynamic rhythm.

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