A new exhibition on the Jewish painter Marc Chagall has opened in Moscow to celebrate the 125th anniversary of his birth and aims to explore the impact his Russian and cultural background had on his work.
Marc Chagall:The Origins of the Master’s Creative Language at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow explores some of the celebrated artist’s lesser known works, in the form of drawings, watercolours, sculptures and paintings to show how the untaught master drew his inspiration from his natural habitat and his exposure to Jewish and Russian culture.
Born Moishe Segal in 1887 to a poor Jewish family on the outskirts of Vitebsk, in modern Belarus, following the Russian Revolution in 1917 which abolished anti-Semitic laws, Chagall was briefly made Fine Arts Commissioner in his hometown, which itself features heavily in his works.
Following his resignation from the post, after a dispute with a fellow painter, Chagall left his birthplace and shortly afterwards fled to Paris, where he made a name for himself.
A noted realistic, who drew both realistic and fantastical references from real life events and locations, notable Jewish references in his displayed works include repeated symbolism of menorahs and the Torah (Jewish bible). When posed the question as to whether his art was based on fantasy or reality, Chagall is recorded as having answered: “It is not true, that my art is fantastic. I’m realist and I love normal life on earth!”
Although noted around the world, his work was, for some time after his death in 1985, frowned upon by the former Soviet Union on account of the Communist state’s disregard of its “bourgeois” tendencies, but following former leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s political reforms in 1987, he finally earned an audience in his motherland, with thousands queuing that same year outside Moscow’s Fine Arts Museum’s for the first major exhibition of his paintings inside Russia.
One of the main components of this latest Russian tribute to the artist is a display of his family collection of portraits, never-before exhibited in Russia. The series, entitled My Life, painted in 1922 provide an illustrative background to his family life, including all its key members, as well a a substantial references to his hometown of Vitebsk.
Exhibition curator Ekaterina Selezneva claims the showing, which runs until September 30, “must help people to understand the mystery of Chagall”, whose Russian roots are often overlooked due to his home nation’s former rejection of his work. “His works are flying around the earth, but return to their place of origin,” she added.