Friday, 27 March 2015

Chagall Restrospective

A retrospective of Chagall, who portrayed the varied objects of his love through poetic colors, is taking place at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. On exhibit are more than 200 pieces, ranging from a 1908 painting that Chagall made at the age of 21 to works of his final years, as well as stage costumes designed by the artist.

Fig.1 Marc Chagall, The Promenade, 1917-1918,
oil on canvas, State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg
© Chagall ® SABAM Belgium 2015
Marc Chagall was born to Jewish parents in 1887 in the Russian village of Vitebsk (current day, in Belarus). After becoming interested in painting, he enrolled in the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts in St. Petersburg. There he came into contact with the new schools of art led by the French. Chagall’s focus shifted to the art center of Paris, and he decided to leave Russia.

The lively and urban city of Paris and his fellow artists living at the communal atelier La Ruche (the beehive), including Fernand Léger, Alexander Archipenko and Amadeo Modigliani, provided many themes and new motifs for Chagall, stimulating his creative ambitions. But Chagall could not forget his hometown of Vitebsk and continued to paint its landscapes (Fig. 1), his family and the people who lived there, as well as various motifs rooted in Jewish culture.

The current retrospective focuses on the relationship between Chagall and his Jewish family background and Jewish culture and traditions. Chagall was originally named Móyshe Shagál after Moses, the Jewish prophet from the Old Testament. He changed his name in Paris to Marc Chagall, as he is currently known.

Driven out of countries by world events such as the Russian Revolution and World War I, Chagall and his wife Bella moved between France, Russia and the United States. In 1941, Chagall fled from Nazi-occupied France to the United States.

Fig.2 Marc Chagall, Definitive Study for the Ceiling
of the Opéra Garnier,  Paris, 1963, gouache on paper,
glued on canvas. private collection
© Chagall ® SABAM Belgium 2015
Around the time that Chagall and his wife Bella arrived in the United States, invading Nazi German troops were obliterating Chagall’s hometown of Vitebsk. And three years later, his beloved Bella died suddenly. After the loss of his hometown to war and the death of his beloved wife, art became a place of escape from despair for Chagall. He delved into creating the stage sets and costumes for Léonide Massine’s ballet “Aleko” and ballet “The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky (music) and Gorge Balanchine (choreography). Chagall returned to Paris after World War II, and in 1960, Andre Malraux commissioned him to paint the ceiling of the Paris Opera. Chagall fulfilled with great success, this opportunity of a free and large-scale project (Fig.2).

The exhibit offers a chance to immerse oneself in the colorful world of Chagall who created with great vitality throughout his long life of 97 years.

Chagall Retrospective runs through June 28. (Museum closed Mondays and May 1st)
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
Rue de la Régence 3 / Regentschapsstraat 3
1000 Brussels
Opening times:
Tue—Fri 10:00—17:00
Sat,Sun 11:00—18:00