The Comité Chagall has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Painted in 1968, La famille du pêcheur is an evocative vision that combines Chagall's personal mythology with his love of colour. Chagall had spent many years experimenting with stained glass and had received many commissions in that field, and the deep translucence and intense light effects of the medium had an influence on his painting. In La famille du pêcheur the rich blue of the night-shrouded background seems to shimmer with delicate touches of light, while the subtle but powerful colouration of the family group in the foreground contrasts with the rest of the composition.
With its black moon in the background and array of mystical narrative elements supporting the figure group, La famille du pêcheur is a fantastical and engaging vision, whose power lies in its poetic hallucinatory quality, a romantic and deeply surreal glimpse into the imagination of the artist. 'Chagall is a conscious artist. While the selection and combination of his images may appear illogical from the representational viewpoint, they are carefully and rationally chosen elements for the pictorial structure he hopes to build. There is nothing automatic in his work. In fact his much talked of illogicality only appears when his paintings are read detail by detail; taken in the composite they have the same pictorial integrity as the most naturalistic painting... In an age that has fled from sentiment he has drawn constantly on it for his stimulation. And our debt to Chagall is to an artist who has brought poetry back into painting through subject matter, without any sacrifice of his painter's interest in the picture for itself, and entirely aside from any communication that can be put into words' (J.J. Sweeney, exh. cat. Chagall, New York, 1947, p. 71).
La famille du pêcheur clearly evokes imagery of the Holy Family, albeit subjected to Chagall's own personal mythology. The woman appears as both bride, a theme that fascinated Chagall throughout his life, and Madonna. The latter association is made all the more apparent because the family group is depicted standing on the back of a donkey. Despite being a Jewish artist, Chagall found the iconography of Christianity a rich source of inspiration. Indeed, he sometimes explored his own Jewish identity through Christian themes. In a sense, this picture recalls the story of the Flight into Egypt, yet Chagall's evocation of religious imagery is never simple or one-dimensional. Different elements from his dreams and memories collide with other pictorial inspirations. As Chagall himself commented, 'If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing' (quoted in J. Baal-Teshuva, Chagall: A Retrospective, Westport, 1995, p. 16).
The inclusion of the fish at the right of the composition adds to the powerful depiction of the unconscious imagination to which the artist was so drawn. In addition to its narrative role, the fish is a symbol of the depths of the human unconscious, and in many ways also mirrors the symbolic aspect of the moon within Chagall's powerful night time visions of the dreamworld. 'It is only as the dead spoils of the angler that the fish belongs to the immediate environment of man. The watery depths in which it passes its life are, like the depths of the human soul, an alien region, and the fish symbolises powers remote from man's consciousness. Chagall's pictures express... the sensual experience, not as a limited drive but as a complete spiritual reality which must be restored to its place in the whole range of human experience and therefore seeks expression. The fish symbolises one elementary aspect of this process' (F. Meyer, Marc Chagall, Life and Work, New York, 1963, p. 380).