Self Portrait with Brushes, otherwise known as Autoportrait, is one of the more important Marc Chagall paintings because it gives us a glimpse of the artist through his own eyes. This communicates more about him than any biography ever could. The way an artist sees himself is often a window straight to his soul, and Chagall’s image of himself in Autoportrait is no exception.
The fact that Chagall chose to paint himself in the profile view speaks of his (low) self-esteem, as the profile shows less of his face. It also serves to give him an intense and passionate appearance, which certainly mimics his work.
Autoportrait, though completed in 1965, appears to show a younger Chagall, but the style of the painting is definitely from later in his career. Note the complex brush techniques, especially in the area of his suit and its lapels. Unlike earlier Marc Chagall paintings, this painting seems more focused and less far-fetched than some of his earlier works.
One of the less subtle, but often overlooked aspects of Autoportrait is the fact that Chagall is shown doing what he loves, painting. He could have chosen any number of settings to immortalize himself in, but he chose the one thing that he was most passionate about. The purpose of Autoportrait was to make Chagall synonymous with his paintings. Not too many people want to be remembered primarily by what they did to earn a living; but for Chagall it was so much more than that, it was a way of life.
I felt Autoportrait was a worthy entry into my list of favorite Chagall paintings because it shows how this artist felt about himself, and what was most important to him in life. It is this dedication that has helped to make Marc Chagall paintings some of the most respected today.