Boaz Awakes

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall, Boaz Wakes up and Sees Ruth at His Feet, 1960. Lithograph, Musee National Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France.

Marc Chagall greatest period of creativity was in the early 1900s, when he developed his style of soft, enigmatic, archetypal symbolism, which drew on his early life in Vitebsk, Belarus. That style is on display in this lithograph from 1960. The work illustrates the biblical tale of Ruth the Moabite offering herself to the drunk and sleeping Boaz at the request of her mother-in-law Naomi, who wants Ruth to seduce and marry Boaz in order to ensure the economic survival of the two women, who are widows. The lithograph, in the usual Chagall style, is loose and gestural, with the circular lines of the arms moving the viewers’ eyes around the painting to create energy and movement. Chagall judiciously uses color for emphasis: orange for the setting sun and blue to bring the viewers’ eyes to focus on Ruth’s face and hair.