Icarus was the son of Daedalus, the inventor of Athens in Greek mythology. He flew with wings made of wax and feathers, nearing the sun but eventually fell. The story of Icarus, who suffered a tragic end due to excessive desire, inspired many writers and artists.
Marc Chagall, a French painter born in Russia, also created a painting with the Icarus theme. In his painting, Icarus is falling from the sky with his body facing the earth and he will drop to the ground, which is red as blood. The sun is depicted black and there are animals and people floating in the air near the bottom of the painting. Some of the people, as if they are welcoming or trying to help Icarus, stretch their hands toward him, while others remain oblivious to his misfortune.
According to the myth, Daedalus created wings with his son when he became trapped in the labyrinth in Creta, to escape by flying to the sun. He gave his son a pair of wings, warning him not to get too close to the sun, as the wings made of wax would melt. Daedalus flew upwards first, followed by his son. As they managed to escape, Icarus ignored his father’s warnings and soared higher, which caused the wings to melt and fall. The price he had to pay for going against the rule of nature was harsh and severe. Chagall, however, interpreted this from a new perspective. Icarus needed self-generated power to rise close to the sun, but as he lacked such power and wisdom, he could not help but fall into the sea.
Chagall created this painting at the age of 88. In the later years of his life, perhaps the artist wished to look back on the principles of life and look back on his own life. The painting reflects many aspects of our life: strong desire for freedom, our ambitions to fly higher, ambitions to achieve beyond what is forbidden, how we view pain or misfortune of others.