The Jewish Museum in New York Presents
First U.S. Exhibition Exploring Darker Works by Marc Chagall
Created During World War II Era
Chagall: Love, War, and Exile
September 15, 2013 – February 2, 2014
New York, NY – From September 15, 2013 through February 2, 2014, The Jewish Museum in New York will present Chagall: Love, War, and Exile which, for the first time in the U.S., explores a significant but neglected period in the artist’s career, from the rise of fascism in the 1930s through 1948, years spent in Paris and then in exile in New York.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985), one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century, created his unique style by drawing on elements from richly colored folk art motifs, the Russian Christian icon tradition, Cubism, and Surrealism. Beginning with the evocative paintings from his years in France, Chagall: Love, War, and Exile illuminates an artist deeply responsive to the suffering inflicted by war and to his own personal losses and concerns. Although he never abandoned a poetic sensibility, his art of the 1930s and 1940s reflects the political reality of the time. Most unexpected is the recurring appearance of the figure of the crucified Jesus as a metaphor for war, Jewish suffering and persecution. By the mid-1940s, Chagall returns to joyful, colorful compositions expressing the power of love. The exhibition includes 31 paintings and 22 works on paper, as well as selected letters, poems, photos, and ephemera.
Escaping the hardships of Soviet life following the Revolution, Chagall moved to Paris with his wife, Bella, and daughter, Ida. During this productive period, he assimilated the French artistic tradition, creating paintings of large scale floral bouquets, vibrant in color and texture.
Like many Eastern European Jews who had fled to France, Chagall’s world was threatened by the rise of Nazism. In 1941, with an invitation from Alfred Barr of the Museum of Modern Art, and the assistance of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee, he and Bella escaped to New York City. With the onset of the war and this forced exile to New York, themes of violence and disruption characterize Chagall’s work.
The most prevalent image used by Chagall during World War II was of Jesus and the Crucifixion. In Chagall’s canvases Jesus was often depicted as a Jew. For the artist, Jesus on the cross was a symbol for victims of persecution, and an appeal to conscience that equated the martyrdom of Jesus with the suffering of the Jewish people. While other Jewish artists depicted the Crucifixion, for Chagall it became a frequent theme.
Unlike his years in Paris, Chagall was never completely comfortable in New York City. The artist felt disconnected from the places he understood best – Russia and Paris. This feeling of alienation was compounded by a devastating personal tragedy – the sudden death of his wife, Bella, in September 1944.
Chagall soon established a new relationship with Virginia Haggard McNeil, moving with her to High Falls, New York in the mid-Hudson Valley. His work from this time often expresses a tension-between the memory of Bella and the new presence of Virginia – resulting in fraught but revealing compositions. Gradually, as the artist emerged from his sadness, and the horrors of war receded, the work from this period begins to reflect a more familiar Chagall expressed in joy-filled paintings replete with intense color and levitating figures.
The show brings together significant works from major institutions and collections throughout Europe, Israel, South America, and the United States, and is comprised of four sections: Time is a River, War and Exile, The Jewish Jesus, and The Colors of Love. Among the exhibition highlights are: The Fall of the Angel, 1927-33-47, one of the largest easel paintings of Chagall’s career, expressing the human tragedy of those years as well as the painter’s existential anguish; Bella in Green, 1934-35, the artist’s last traditional portrait of his wife, Bella, made in Paris before the war; Time is a River Without Banks, 1930-39, a blending of personal recollections in unexpected, surreal juxtapositions; Study for the Revolution, 1937, a pictorial expression of Chagall’s disillusionment with the outcome of the Russian Revolution; The Juggler, 1943, representing various aspects of the human condition with the head of a cockerel, body of a man, and wings of an angel; Obsession, 1943, depicting the felled figure of Jesus on the cross, while a shtetl burns in the background; and Self-Portrait with Clock, 1947, an intensely autobiographical work revealing Chagall’s complex emotions of longing and loss following Bella’s death and the beginning of a new love. Also included is a sketchbook, begun by Bella in 1942 and, after her death, appropriated by Chagall. Exhibition visitors can see the actual sketchbook, and on nearby touchscreens view forty-three additional sketches.
Chagall: Love, War, and Exile is organized by Susan Tumarkin Goodman, Senior Curator Emerita at The Jewish Museum.
In conjunction with the exhibition, The Jewish Museum and Yale University Press are co-publishing a 148-page catalogue by Ms. Goodman, with an essay by Kenneth E. Silver, Professor of Art History at New York University. Goodman and Silver analyze Chagall’s complex iconography and phantasmagorical style, tracing the political, literary, and theological sources that inspired his art. Also included are 72 color reproductions, 27 black and white illustrations, and eleven of Chagall’s rarely seen poems. The clothbound book will be available worldwide and at The Jewish Museum’s Cooper Shop for $45.00.
Produced by The Jewish Museum in association with Acoustiguide, a random access audio guide is being created for Chagall: Love, War, and Exile. Available to visitors for $5.00, the audio guide is being made possible by Bloomberg.
Exhibition Press Preview
A press preview is being held on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 from 10am to 1pm with remarks at 10:30am. If you are interested in attending please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Exhibition Related Programs
The Jewish Museum is presenting a variety of programs related to the exhibition, Chagall: Love, War, and Exile, including lectures by Chagall’s granddaughter, Bella Meyer (October 8), and NYU art history professor, Kenneth E. Silver (November 12), as well as artists Amy Sillman and Peter Doig in conversation with Jordan Kantor (November 24).
The exhibition is sponsored by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation.
Lead corporate support is provided by Capital One Bank.
Major support is provided by the David Berg Foundation, the Grand Marnier Foundation, the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, and the Leon Levy Foundation. Additional generous support is provided by an anonymous donor in memory of Curtis Hereld, Alexis and René-Pierre Azria, and the Robert Lehman Foundation.
The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities and, in part, by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The catalogue is made possible with endowment support from the Dorot Foundation.
About The Jewish Museum
Widely admired for its exhibitions and collections that inspire people of all backgrounds, The Jewish Museum is one of the world’s preeminent institutions devoted to exploring art and Jewish culture from ancient to contemporary. Located at Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street, The Jewish Museum organizes a diverse schedule of internationally acclaimed and award-winning temporary exhibitions as well as dynamic and engaging programs for families, adults, and school groups. The Museum was established in 1904, when Judge Mayer Sulzberger donated 26 ceremonial art objects to The Jewish Theological Seminary of America as the core of a museum collection. Today, the Museum maintains a collection of 25,000 objects – paintings, sculpture, works on paper, photographs, archaeological artifacts, ritual objects, and broadcast media.
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Images (left to right): Marc Chagall, The Juggler, 1943, oil on canvas, 43 1/4 x 31 1/8 in. Private collection; Marc Chagall, Self-Portrait with Clock, 1947, oil on canvas, 33 7/8 x 27 7/8 in. Private collection. Art by Marc Chagall © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
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