11 works, MARC CHAGALL. A RETROSPECTIVE (1908 - 1985) - Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Over 200 works of Marc Chagall have been gathered worldwide for this major retrospective exhibition. From his early paintings of 1908 to his final, monumental works of the 1980s, the exhibition offers a rich overview of the painter’s artistic career. More at: Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Love and identity are the eternal themes through which Chagall chronicled the thrill and terror of 20th-century history. Dovetailing such private pictures of tremendous interiority with those that have become the famous public face of the artist, this show underlines how Chagall made the personal political and the political personal. More at: THE FINANCIAL TIMES

Marc Chagall 
‘Yellow Crucifixion’ (1942)
Oil on linen
Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, France

The art piece follows a similar piece by the same artist called the White Crucifixion, where he showed the suffering of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust by using the image of Jesus Christ, a Jew. In this masterpiece, the artist continues to discuss the plight of the Jews. In this art piece, he shows Jesus crucified on the right side. Beside him is a large green scroll of law (Torah) held by an angel. The same angel holds a candle and blows a trumpet.

At the foot of the cross, on the right, is an engulfing inferno consuming a ghetto as people flee from the fire. On the foreground is a woman holding to her suckling baby carried by a mule, possibly escaping the horrors of persecution. The background is all orange and amber to show the immense heat experienced by subjects on the image. On the left of the artwork is a ship that seems to sink (in the background). Survivors are trying to swim to the show in a desperate attempt to save their lives. One of the survivors is a bare-chested woman. Close to the crucified Jesus is a man holding to a ladder as if in an attempt to reach the Torah or the crucified Jesus. More on this painting

Marc Chagall 
“The Promenade”, c. 1917
Oil on canvas
169.6 x 163.4 cm
State Russian Museum, St.Petersburg, Russia.

Bella whirls aloft like a flag, her magenta dress a jagged futurist depiction of soaring movement painted in a moment of revolutionary euphoria in 1917 In St Petersburg’s

Marc Chagall 
I and the Village, 1912
Pencil, watercolour and gouache on paper
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels

At the center of this painting, the faces of a goat and a man meet, their pupils connected by a faint and uneven white line. The contours of their noses, cheeks, and chins form the basis of a set of interlocking diagonals, concentric circles, planes of color, and fragmented forms. This central pair is joined by floating figures and vignettes that are interspersed, dreamlike, throughout the composition: at left, a woman milks a cow; above, a floating face appears in a church entrance; a row of houses features two that are upside down.

Chagall painted I and the Village one year after moving from Russia to Paris, where he joined a vibrant community of international artists known as La Ruche (The Beehive), so called for their proximity and productive exchange, which took place in the neighborhood of Montparnasse. More on this painting

Marc Chagall 
Composition with Circles and Goat - Jewish Theatre, c. 1920
Oil on cardboard mounted on chipboard
Private Collection

Despite its unassuming appearance, it does acquaint us with a new field of activity for Chagall and with some new and somewhat surprising pictorial ideas. As flat as a poster design, it shows a simple balancing act made up of geometrical elements: two circles, of light and of dark blue, rest one above the other and are poised on a white beam which seems to be rocking on the fulcrum of a white square. A slanting, slightly curved green plane indicates a pendulum movement. Built into this seesaw game is the marionette-like figure of a young man in a violet visored cap, who seems to support himself on the balancing beam, and whose whip shows him to be a circus trainer. His own attributes are only a tiny bird and a cheerful goat with a little bell around its neck - a constantly recurring Chagallian emblem for animal joyousness. More on this painting

Marc Chagall 
Il compleanno (Birthday), c. 1915
Oil on cardboard
31 3/4 x 39 1/4" (80.6 x 99.7 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, New York

It’s her birthday and in a moment of emotion and passion, her husband decides that the flowers he got for her are not enough. And so, he literally ‘leaps’ to kiss her, catching her by a wonderful surprise and carrying her away.

"The Birthday" or "Anniversary" as it’s also known, is a 1915 Marc Chagall composition featuring a simple interior typical of Russian provincial tastes of the turn of the 20th century. The two figures, a man and a woman appear to be free of having to conform to the common laws of physics. They simply float, unburdened by gravity. The woman in the painting is none other than Chagalls’ beloved first wife Bella Rosenfeld whom the artist met in St. Petersburg in 1908. Bella, in a simple black dress is shown tilted forward towards the window as if running, holding a festive bouquet of flowers. Chagall - floating lovingly above her, kissing her with his head bent and twisted, his torso turned away from her. This is an intimate setting, meant for the loved one, and that’s how the viewer gets a feeling of being in the same room as the couple and almost intruding upon an intimate moment. Like so many of Marc Chagall’s other loving tributes to his wife, this painting is filled with intimacy, caring affection, love and warmth. More on this painting

Marc Chagall
Red Nude (1909)
Private collection

Marc Chagall
Red Nude Sitting Up
Oil, canvas
90 x 70 cm
Private Collection 

Chagall had just won a scholarship to the celebrated Svanseva School where Leon Bakst taught, who was a major link with the West and an influential advocate of symbolist painting. Bakst wrote for the periodical Mir Iskusstra (The World of Art). Through Bakst, Chagall acquired a finely tuned sense of his role as an artist and must have been helped towards new means of visual expression. In this new piece of work, the artist shows his nude frontally and with a weighty, direct physicality that is quite unlike the etude-like reticence of the picture of Mariaska. The unconventional red shades and their contrast with the green of the plant suggest that Chagall was familiar with recent French painting, in particular with that of Henri Matisse, an impression that is confirmed by the fragmented rendering of the figure, making it torso-like and rapt. More on this painting

Marc Chagall
The Eiffel Tower , c. 1929
Watercolour, gouache and oil on paper
100 x 81.8 cm
National Gallery of Canada

The Eiffel Tower occupies the centre of Chagall's painting, but by blurring its geometric structure with muted colours and flanking it with a floating figure against a brightly coloured sun and a leafy tree, Chagall has softened the harshness of its steel structure. He has even used poetic evocations of his childhood village in Russia, such as the fiddle-playing rooster, to give an overall dream-like or surrealistic effect to this famous subject. More on this painting

Marc Chagall (French, Vitebsk 1887–1985 Saint-Paul-de-Vence)
Man with his head thrown back, c.  1919
Oil on cardboard mounted on wood
54 by 47cm
Private collection

Marc Chagall (French, Vitebsk 1887–1985 Saint-Paul-de-Vence)
Cow with a Parasol, c. 1946
Oil on canvas
32 x 42 1/2 in. (81.3 x 108 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Marc Chagall 1887–1985
Le Poète allongé/The Poet Recliningc. 1915
Oil paint on cardboard
772 × 775 mm

Chagall had just married his first wife Bella when he began this painting. It is a reverie in which he imagines himself outstretched in the Russian countryside where they spent their honeymoon. He remembered it as a place of 'wood, fir-trees, solitude. The moon behind the forest. The pig in the sty, the horse behind the window, in the fields. The sky lilac.' Though an idyllic scene, the figure seems oddly isolated. This may relate to the fact that Chagall painted it during the First World War, a conflict then being fought on Russian soil. More on this painting

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