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Chagall drew inspiration from the theme of the circus throughout his life. As a child in Russia, he had been fascinated by the travelling acrobats he saw at village fairs. After he moved to Paris, Ambroise Vollard regularly accompanied him to the circus, where he would sit in the audience and sketch. The chaotic and colourful atmosphere of the circus captivated Chagall. Here, he saw all aspects of life represented, from the comic to the tragic. He later said, 'For me a circus is a magic show that appears and disappears like a world.' Circus performers, with their outlandish costumes and garish make-up, were ideal characters to populate Chagall's dream-like compostions.

April 1997