Marc Chagall


Maria de Juan

Chagall, a cry for freedom

An exhibition at Fundación Mapfre discover new facets of Chagall. The dreamlike painter captivates our eyes with exuberant colours, dearing anthropomorphic animals, flying men and fairy-tale towns for children.

marc chagall the promenade

For decades Chagall‘s dreams were also nightmares. His unmistakable palette served to represent the fire and darkness that devastated humanity.

If I believe from the heart, almost everything works. If I do it from the head, almost nothing.

He put his art at the service of the Jewish cause. He renewed Yiddish iconography, reinterpreted sacred history, designed stained glass windows of Jerusalem hospital and created the mosaics and tapestries of the Israeli parliament. He also painted the ceilings of Paris Opera.

marc chagall the green violinist

Chagall was a Russian-French painter and graphic artist, known for his original style and poetic imagination. He is considered one of the most prominent artists of the 20th century. From a very young age, he showed great talent towards art and received his first training in St. Petersburg.

In 1910, he moved to Paris, where he came into contact with the artistic avant-garde of the time, such as Cubism and Surrealism.

Although his style was influenced by these currents, his work is full of dreamlike and fantastic images that reflect his imagination and his Jewish roots.

Great art begins where nature ends.

He painted a wide variety of subjects: biblical, mythological, portraits, landscapes and everyday life scenes. His art has that air of innocence and joy of popular art.

Chagall developed a unique and personal visual language combining surreal, symbolic and folkloric elements. He created his own universe.

marc chagall carruaje

Throughout his life, he experienced the most traumatic events of the 20th century. Above his drama, he invented his own world. Two world wars forced him to experience uprooting and migration, which he reflects in some of the figures that inhabit his paintings.

However, he expresses with his brushes his deep faith in harmony and universal peace.

An unpublished, less dreamlike Chagall arrives at Fundacion Mapfre in Madrid. It is a collaboration with the Chagall Museum in Nice and Musée La-Piscine in Roubaix (France).

With a route organised chronologically, the rooms present 160 works and 90 documents, many unpublished, from the Marc and Ida Chagall Archive. Some key works in the artist’s career stand out, such as The Green Violinist.

The irresistible charm of Chagall‘s work is a double- edged sword. It can envelop the viewer and take them away from the motifs that inspired the painter.

His paintings reveal new facets to us. They inspire us to review the image of the dreamlike and candid painter. This exhibition reveals him, not as an apolitical dreamer, but deeply committed to human beings, concerned about his time.

marc chagall liberation

The painter Marc Chagall declared “Art is a state of the soul.

He died 25 years ago, at 97. It was a long life for an artist who enjoyed professional success but before that, he suffered hunger and terror in imperialist and Soviet Russia and later in the Paris of the avant-garde.

Dreamlike green horses, blue goats, couples floating around the room and flying through the window, wandering Jews and landscapes full of snow, remind us of his remote and forgotten childhood.

Thirst for stability

For him, bohemian artists suffer from “a single illness: the thirst for stability.” His was a childhood of “a stuttering child and bread without butter.” This is what he wrote in his book “Ma vie” (My life, Editorial Acantilado) His story is a biography of wars, revolutions and exiles. The text was published in 1931, translated from Russian to French by Bella Chagall, his muse and wife.

marc chagall hombre azul

The canvases are windows to an imaginary world

Windows, which he constantly mentions in his book, from where he observed the world since his childhood. Chagall poetically told how his life went from his birth (“I was born dead”) to his youth. His family, very humble, lived in a small town, Vitebsk, in Tsarist Russia (today Belarus).

There were eight children and he had infinite difficulties to become a painter. Only his mother understood his talent. The influence she projected was comparable only to his admiration for Rembrandt. This personal story is basic to understanding the great symbolic load of his work.

He is described as a Surrealist artist for the translation of his dreams onto his canvases and related to Expressionists for his use of primary colours: green rabbis, red Jews, green or blue houses…

The dreaming Jew who flew over hell

His paintings radiate enthusiasm and optimism despite his dramatic experiences. Chagall lived through the turbulent period of First World War, the Russian socialist dictatorship and Nazism in Europe. He visited Palestine and contributed to the Zionist project (1931). When World War II broke out he decided to stay in France.

He managed to escape in extremis when France denationalised him by withdrawing his passport (1941). With his wife Bella and his daughter, he fled to the United States via Lisbon. From New York he witnessed the destruction of Europe and the extermination of the Jewish people. Like Goya, he painted his own “disasters of war.”

marc chagall village

When he became a widower, he fell into depression. His mother encouraged him to marry 30-year-old Virginia Haggard (he was 57). She gave him back the joy of living and gave him a new son.

They returned to France and lived in St.Paul-de-Vence, until his death, almost a centenary (1985). It is estimated that he created more than 10,000 works including paintings, engravings, ceramics, sculptures and stained glass. His vibrant colours and ability to create poetic compositions made him one of the great masters of modern art.

He moves so far from reality, with his magic and lyricism, that he is considered the most poetic of painters.

This is the most important retrospective dedicated to the Russian painter in Spain since that of the Thyssen Museum (2012). We also remember another exhibition at Mapfre: “Chagall – Malevich” (1919).

Chagall, a cry for freedom

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