Chagall: Love, War, and Exile
"In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love." - Marc Chagall
With fall comes the opening of The Jewish Museum's new blockbuster show, Marc Chagall: Love, War, and Exile. For the first time in the U.S., an exhibition truly explores a significant but neglected period in the artist’s career: the rise of fascism in the 1930s through 1948, his years spent in Paris and then in exile to New York.
“The exhibition provides an opportunity to reevaluate Marc Chagall’s art in the context of his life,” said Susan Tumarkin Goodman, senior curator emerita, who organized the show.
Although it is an exhibition which highlights the tragedies in Marc Chagall’s life- from the death of his wife, Bella, to the suffering of the Jews throughout Europe- it is also full of hope, expressed in joy-filled paintings replete with intense color and levitating figures.
Marc Chagall: Love, War, and Exile is on view from September 15, 2013 - February 2, 2014.
He is less celebrated, though, for his paintings of another iconic figure who obsessed him throughout his career: Jesus.
Starting with a line drawing of the Crucifixion he made in 1908 while studying art in St. Petersburg, Chagall depicted Christ on the cross dozens of times. Some Chagall Christs resemble the Eastern Orthodox icons the artist knew from his childhood in Russia. Others don’t look like the Christ in churches anywhere: they wear Jewish prayer shawls in place of a loincloth, and sometimes Tefillin, the leather boxes Jews strap to their foreheads and arms.
These religiously ambiguous figures populate “Chagall: Love, War, and Exile,” a startling and provocative show opening September 15 at the Jewish Museum in New York.
The green fiddler is here, along with flying blue cows and other popular Chagall motifs. But the dreamscape is now a nightmare. Villages burn, the patriarchs weep, and fleeing Jews clutch their Torah scrolls and each other.
The somber nature of the show might surprise audiences used to a more cheerful version of Marc Chagall, infused with nostalgia and joy.
(Top left): Marc Chagall, Persecution, 1941, pastel, gouache and watercolor on paper. COURTESY COLLECTION HERTA AND PAUL AMIR, BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA. ©2013 ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK / ADAGP, PARIS.; (Top right): Marc Chagall, The Fall of the Angel, 1932-33-47, oil on canvas. PRIVATE COLLECTION, ON DEPOSIT AT THE KUNSTMUSEUM BASEL. ©2013 ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK /ADAGP, PARIS.; (Bottom left): Marc Chagall, Apocalypse en Lilas: Capriccio, 1945/47, gouache, pencil and Indian ink on paper. COURTESY BEN URI, THE LONDON JEWISH MUSEUM OF ART.; (Bottom right): Marc Chagall, The Soul of the City, 1945, oil on canvas. COURTESY MUSÉE NATIONAL D’ART MODERN CENTRE GEORGES POMPIDOU, PARIS, GIFT OF THE ARTIST, 1953. ART ©2013 ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK / ADAGP, PARIS. PHOTO: PHILIPPE MIGEAT. PHOTO ©CNAC/MNAM/DIST. RMN-GRAND PALAIS / ART RESOURCE, NY.