Marc Chagall: The Story of the Exodus

The Story of The Exodus,” a series of 24 lithographs by Marc Chagall, will be on display at the David McCune International Art Gallery at Methodist University from Feb. 8 to April 6, 2018

Marc Chagall (1887 – 1985) was born in Russia and later took French citizenship. Known as perhaps one of the greatest modern artists of his time, Chagall grew up in the small Jewish shtetl where he was born, amilieu that was to strongly influence his work for the rest of his life. From 1906 to 1909 he studied under L. Bakst in St. Petersburg; here he made his name with a style of Neo-Primitivism that was strongly influenced by Russian iconography and folk art.

In 1910, Chagall arrived in Paris for the first time and there came into contact with many figures from literary and avant-garde circles as he discovered Fauvism, Cubism, and Orphism. It was during this period that he began to add the element of fantasy to his paintings, a trait that would become one of the most distinctive features of his poetic vision. From this period, key works include “Rain” (1911, Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection) and “I and the Village” (1911, New York, MoMa).

In 1914, Chagall returned to Vitebsk and once again immersed himself in the spiritual cultural values of his youth, as can be shown in his “Feast Day” (Rabbi with Lemon; 1914, Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen) and “Jew in Pink” (1914, St. Petersburg, Russian Museum). In 1917, Chagall was a keen member of the Revolution in Moscow and was called to serve as Commissar of Visual Arts. In the same year, he founded an arts college but later distanced himself after clashing with K.S. Malevich, preferring instead to concentrate on creating the décor, costume, and sets for the Jewish theatre in Kamerny.

In 1922, Chagall returned to Paris, where he met with the art dealer Ambroise Vollard, with whom he collaborated to create a series of etchings to illustrate books including the Bible, Gogol’s “Dead Souls,” and La Fontaine’s Fables. Some recurrent figures began to increasingly emerge in his work, including the fish, the rooster with its rich symbolic connotations, and the theme of the crucifixion. In 1941, Chagall was forced to move to the United States to escape Nazi persecution, and it was not until 1950 that he returned to France. During this period, Chagall explored new expressive media, including ceramics, mosaics, and sculptures, as well as tapestry work and painting on glass. It was in these years that he created stained glass windows for the Cathedral in Metz, France (1958-64) and decorated the Paris Opéra and the United Nations building in New York (1964). The body of work left behind by Chagall is immense. Chagall created a highly subjective, visual realm filled with his own dreamlike poetic lyricism, subverting the laws of perspective and gravity, as well as those of time and space, a world where majestic colors were the result of intimate, yet seemingly arbitrary, decisions. Chagall’s extraordinary imagination added a fantastical dimension to the small acts of everyday life while embracing his key themes of childhood, life in rural Russia, in Jewish communities, and in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century. Perhaps Chagall’s most important contribution was the deep connection he felt with the themes of the Bible, which he pronounced to be “one of the most powerful sources of poetry of all time.”

Opening Night

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