09-27-2007 10:00 PM
Chagall, who became the emblematic Jewish painter of the twentieth century, was secular in outlook and observance, but obsessed with Jesus as a "poet and prophet." During the Holocaust he felt driven to paint more than a dozen crucifixion scenes featuring Jesus as a symbol of Jewish martyrdom. An artist who produced work that levitates the soul, he was also, after the Russian Revolution, briefly a Soviet Plenipotentiary who displaced a Jewish family from their home in order to establish an academy of revolutionary art. History's turbulence belonged to him as much as matters of the heart. In France he was arrested by the Nazis, and but for the timely intervention of the American Relief official Varian Fry he might have ended up at Auschwitz.
We go to Chagall for images of romantic persistence in the face of a world gone mad, but his personal life sometimes disturbs the lovely sense of balance that we derive from his paintings. "He painted love but he didn't practice it," said Virginia Haggard, Chagall's lover for seven years after the death of his first wife Bella, and the mother of his son David. Virginia was bitter at the end of their relationship, but she raises a fascinating question about the difference between what artists know in their life and in their work.
I'd love to go beyond the "Fiddler on the Roof" Chagall in this conversation. To acknowledge, but also go beyond, the sentimentality that sometimes clouds how we look at this remarkable artist. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say about the contradictions and complexities of Chagall's long life-he died at 97. What do you make of the fact that as a young man he liked to rouge his cheeks and wear eye shadow? What are the Chagalls that you have on your walls? Have you perhaps visited the Chagall Museum of the Biblical Message in Nice? What among his work-- paintings, drawings, lithographs, ceramics, theatrical designs, Bible and other book illustrations- has moved you over the years? There's a lot to talk about.
Learn more about Marc Chagall.
10-21-2007 02:00 PM
This message has been moved to the "Questions for Jonathan Wilson" thread. This helps to keep our boards organized.