Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

by Andrew Kagan
     
 

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Chagall's sprightly fiddler on the roof and his romantic airborne lovers—affectionate icons from the artist's early years in a Russian village—are among the most familiar and best-loved figures in modern art. This beguiling volume tells the story of Chagall's long and adventure-filled life and presents his works in diverse media—oil, watercolor,…  See more details below

Overview

Chagall's sprightly fiddler on the roof and his romantic airborne lovers—affectionate icons from the artist's early years in a Russian village—are among the most familiar and best-loved figures in modern art. This beguiling volume tells the story of Chagall's long and adventure-filled life and presents his works in diverse media—oil, watercolor, graphics of all types, pottery, and stained glass.

Chagall's early achievements in Russia attracted the first of his many gaurdian angels, who made it possible for him to move to Paris, where he enthusiastically enjoyed the heady pleasures of bohemia and his own precocious success. Back in Russia on a visit in 1914, he was trapped by the onset of the Revolution, which unexpectedly elevated him to the lofty position of art commissar—and just as quickly demoted him. Not until eight years later was he back in his beloved France, where he stayed the rest of his life except for a reluctant exile to the United States during World War II. However tumultuous his life became, Chagall remained almost unsinkably lighthearted, expressing an exuberant joy in living that infused his art and makes this engaging book such a delight to look at and read.

About the Modern Masters series:

With infomative, enjoyable texts and over 100 illustrations—approximately 48 in full color—this innovative series offers a fresh look at the most creative and influential artists of the postwar era. The authors are highly respected art historians and critics chosen for their ability to think clearly and write well. Each handsomely designed volume presents a thorough survey of the artist's life and work, as well as statements by theartist, an illustrated chapter on technique, a chronology, lists of exhibitions and public collections, an annotated bibliography, and an index. Every art lover, from the casual museumgoer to the serious student, teacher, critic, or curator, will be eager to collect these Modern Masters. And with such a low price, they can afford to collect them all.

Other Details: 115 or more illustrations, approximately 48 in full color 128 pages 8 1/2 x 8 1/2" Published 1989

deeply he was involved in the life and politics of his times. From the bohemia of Paris in the last years of the Belle Epoque he returned to his native Russia, eventually becoming an academician and an art commissar, enmeshed in the politics of the Russian Revolution. Although he was an irrepressible optimist, Chagall was by no means oblivious or insensitive to the troubles of humanity. Yet he was never distressed by these matters to the point of despair. He was blessed with limitless energy and self-confidence, with the resilience to survive trials, and with a readiness to find fulfillment in his work and in his love of those near to him.

The fruit of Chagall's long life was a vast body of work in many different media—paintings; graphic works (lithographs, etchings, poster prints) beyond number; book illustrations; set designs for theater and ballet; ceramics and sculpture in bronze, stone, and marble; mosaics and tapestry designs; and, in the large-scale public commissions of his later years, murals, ceilings, and stained-glass windows. The finest examples of this prodigious output placed Chagall among the masters of twentieth-century art. But even in the least of his creations he managed to share some of his extraordinary joy and faith with the many lovers of his art.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) knew that he led a charmed existence. Like his famed floating figures, the artist managed to soar above the tragedies that threatened to engulf him, including the Russian Revolution and World War II. ``He was blessed with limitless energy and self-confidence, with the resilience to survive trials, and with a readiness to find fulfillment in his work and in his love of those near to him,'' reports art historian Kagan ( Paul Klee: Art and Music ). In lucid, polished prose, Kagan reviews Chagall's experiences and achievements, from his childhood in the Russian town of Vitebsk to his glory days in France, and writes knowledgeably of the artist's dreamy, poetic images and his brilliance as a colorist. While noting that critics do not always admire Chagall's work, Kagan does not present their arguments (which often cite Chagall's sentimentality and tendency to rely on levitated animals and bouquets of flowers). The result is a text that sometimes waxes too glowing. Appended are a chronology of Chagall's life, a listing of his exhibitions and a chapter of his own comments on his oeuvre. Forty-eight color and 60 black-and-white reproductions demonstrate Chagall's mastery of many media--among them, painting, sculpture, mosaic and stained glass. (Oct.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780896599352
Publisher:
Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/28/1989
Series:
Modern Masters Series Series
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
8.54(w) x 11.07(h) x 0.54(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Introduction

Marc Chagall was the poet of twentieth-century art. In an age that placed primary emphasis on the "music" of visual art—the content arising from the interaction of its formal elements—Chagall appears to have clung to the ancient doctrine of ut pictura poesis. This doctrine, essentially an extended analogy between painting and poetry, held that a painting, like a poem, ought to symbolize the experiences of life and the feelings they evoke. Chagall had dreamed of being a poet in his youth and remained a lover of poetry throughout his life. In his autobiography, My Life (1922), itself a lyric prose poem, he spoke of his boyhood attempts at verse:

"Night and day I wrote verses. People spoke well of them. I thought: I'll be a poet. . . . As soon as I learned how to express myself in Russian, I began to write poetry. As naturally as breathing."

He began to write poetry again in the 1930s and continued to do so until the end of his life.

For the poet Chagall, the essential functions of a painting were symbolic, not formal. To be sure, he subscribed to the twentieth-century doctrine that a work of art, which is constructed of basic forms and colors, must succeed first of all in visual terms. And indeed, Chagall was a brilliant colorist, one of the greatest of this century. But what matters finally in his art is the very personal sensibility communicated, as in poetry, through the arrangement of his particular forms and symbols. For Chagall the work of art was more than anything else a means to record his sensations, his memories, his moods, his feelings about his life. Late in life he said, "Some have blamed me for putting poetry into my paintings. Itis true that one should expect other things from pictorial art. But let someone show me one single great work that doesn't have its share of poetry!"

Chagall's art is a lyric of love—love of his native village and his childhood, his parents, his two wives, love of nature and of life itself. "Is it not true that painting and color are inspired by love?" he wrote in 1973, at the age of eighty-five. "It is our duty to color our own lives with shades of love and hope. . . . In art, as in life, all is possible when conceived in love." He spoke also of "that all-encompassing affection I have, in general, for all mankind." The objects of Chagall's affection and fantasies—the goats, chickens, and cows, the fiddlers on the rooftops of his native village, his mother's shop, his relatives and neighbors (all lovingly recalled in My Life)—reappear throughout his work, from his earliest efforts to those of his last years. Figures of tenderly entwined lovers enveloped in bouquets are another constant; Chagall was still painting these passionate lovers in his late nineties, just prior to his death in 1985.

Although Chagall suffered moments of melancholy, bereavement, disappointment, displeasure, and anger, even hunger, poverty, and the threat of persecution, his art only rarely speaks of such experiences. The sustained hostilities, the despair, the depressions to which so many famous artists have been prey were unknown to him. A muted "poetry of tragedy" occasionally finds its way into his work, but it does not prevail. He was not without cynicism, nor without antagonism toward his critics and detractors; and he would, at times, vent an acidic sarcasm against artists he disliked. But these occasional negatives notwithstanding, Chagall's spirit was devoted to rejoicing in life. His belief in himself was unshakable. He passed through his trials with the blithe composure of a sleepwalker, oblivious to perils narrowly avoided. Whenever Chagall found himself in a crisis, there was always a guardian angel to rescue him (these angels, too, find a place in his iconography). In 1922, at the age of thirty-five, he declared, "All days are fine!" In his eighties he wrote, "The end of life is a bouquet."

Given the personal, often pastoral, character of Chagall's work, it is surprising to learn just how deeply he was involved in the life and politics of his times. From the bohemia of Paris in the last years of the Belle Epoque he returned to his native Russia, eventually becoming an academician and an art commissar, enmeshed in the politics of the Russian Revolution. Although he was an irrepressible optimist, Chagall was by no means oblivious or insensitive to the troubles of humanity. Yet he was never distressed by these matters to the point of despair. He was blessed with limitless energy and self-confidence, with the resilience to survive trials, and with a readiness to find fulfillment in his work and in his love of those near to him.

The fruit of Chagall's long life was a vast body of work in many different media—paintings; graphic works (lithographs, etchings, poster prints) beyond number; book illustrations; set designs for theater and ballet; ceramics and sculpture in bronze, stone, and marble; mosaics and tapestry designs; and, in the large-scale public commissions of his later years, murals, ceilings, and stained-glass windows. The finest examples of this prodigious output placed Chagall among the masters of twentieth-century art. But even in the least of his creations he managed to share some of his extraordinary joy and faith with the many lovers of his art.

Read More

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