«Marc Chagall: The Colour of Love» from the collection of the Museum of Marc Chagall (Vitebsk)
In spite of all troubles of the world,
I kept a piece of inspired love in which I was brought up,
and faith in a human who saw Love. In our life as well
as in an artist’s palette just one colour exists,
that brings sense to Life and Art, the Colour of Love.
Marc Chagall is rightly considered to be one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. The master’s creativity is notable for diversity: a draftsman, a printmaker, a painter, a scenographer, an illustrator, an author of works of monumental and applied arts and a poet. Among variety of creative interests and narrative themes, Marc Chagall’s creativity is remarkable with love, about which the artist spoke of up to his decease. He identified sacred and profane love with his wife Bella for some decades. In Marc Chagall’s works, Bella was the incarnation of Muse, Bride, Wife, Fair Lady. But he also loved his country and his native Vitebsk, Paris and France, his people and incredibly loved literature.
Profound Chagall’s illustrations to his autobiography My Life and to Bella's books (Burning Lights, The First Meeting, My Notebook) are widely known; as well as the sharp in their characteristics and observations, the illustrations for Dead Souls by Gogol; the ones сharacterized by a unique variety of images and colour-plastic solutions for Lafontaine’s Fables; blazing with the colour of illustrations to the novel of the ancient Greek writer Long Daphnis and Chloe; and finally the illustrations to the «greatest source of poetry of all time», the Bible. «I’ve always wanted to work on the books», – wrote Mark Сhagall and consistently implemented this dream of his throughout his creative life.
The exhibition «Mark Сhagall: The Colour of Love» is also associated with books and literature. The lithographs presented at the exhibition were performed by Mark Chagall mainly in the 1950s-1960s as the illustrations to various publications, though the ones dedicated to Chagall himself. The artist makes the illustrations to the texts about himself, «illustrates» himself. Hence there is a whole rich range of the scenes, which distinguishes Chagall’s creativity: landscapes of Vitebsk, Paris, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, couples in love, and a mother with a child, fantastic creatures and symbolic animals, musicians and of course the image of the master himself.
The Parisian publishing house of Aimé Maeght (1806–1981) published the monograph Chagall in 1957, by famous French art critic and art historian Jacques Lassaigne (1911–1983), with whom the artist associated many years of friendship. In addition to text, the photographs and reproductions of Chagall's works, the book included 13 coloured and 2 black-and-white lithographs made by the artist in the famous Parisian printing workshop of Fernand Mourlot (1895-1988). Among them there are eleven coloured and one black-and-white (Village) lithographs represented at the exhibition.
Jacques Lassaigne published the book The Plafond of the Paris Opera in 1965, which was dedicated to the history of the creation and description of the painting, over which Marc Chagall had been working in 1963–1964 (the grand opening of the new Grand Opera’s plafond took place in September 1964). The artist created the frontispiece for this richly illustrated edition – the original lithograph representing one of the fragments of the ceiling paintings. In addition to Chagall’s lithographs and a large number of photo-illustrations, the book was complemented by six lithographs, executed by Charles Sorlier (1921–1990) and based on the works by the artist.
«It seems to me that I was missing something if I would not be engaged in engraving and lithography at a certain moment of my life... When I picked up a lithographic stone or a copper plate, it seemed that I had a talisman in my hands. It seemed that I could put all my joys and sorrows on them. Everything that filled my life - birth, weddings, death, flowers, animals, birds, poor workers, parents, lovers in the night, biblical prophets on the streets, in the temple and in the sky...», – Marc Chagall once wrote. During his impressive career, the artist created numerous graphic works – drawings, etchings, lithographs, thus proving that he was not only a great painter, colourist, but also the master of line and tone relations.
The graphic heritage of Chagall is extraordinarily great. The publishing house of André Sauret in Monte Carlo (existed in 1946–1980) published the first part of the six-volume work – the catalogue-raisonné Chagall. Lithography in 1960 (the last volume was published in 1986). For this edition, with the texts in French and German, Chagall executed 21 colour and 7 black-and-white lithographs. The exposition presents three the lithographs from the first volume – Self-portrait, which became the frontispiece of the edition, Bay of Angels, Vision of Paris – and the two ones to the second (1963) – Heaven of Lovers and Nocturne at Vence.
At the exhibition the spectators can see the lithographs created by Chagall specially for Derrière le miroir and Verve magazines, which possess the exclusive rights for the publication of the original prints in their editions. Derrière le miroir, founded by the Parisian collector, gallery owner and publisher Aimé Maeght in 1946 (the first issue was printed in October, 1946), has become one of the largest media in circulation until 1982. Totally 253 issues of the magazine were published in this period. The number 99–100 of July–August, 1957 was dedicated to the exhibition of Marc Chagall in the Galerie Maeght. The author of the text to the publication was the famous French writer and essayist Jean Paulhan (1884–1968). For this issue the artist created 3 black-and-white and 4 colour lithographs, two of which – Concert and Painter and his Double are presented at this exhibition.
Chagall enjoyed long-standing friendship and fruitful cooperation with the publishing house Verve owned by the French-Greek art critic and collector Eugene Tériade (Stratis Eleftheridis, 1897–1983). Verve magazine has been published from December 1937 to 1960; 38 issues in 10 volumes were published in this period. Chagall executed the cover for the issue № 24 (1950), and eight lithographs of his were published in № 27–28 (1952) of Verve, the three of which (Place de la Concorde, Mother and Child in front of Notre Dame and Vision of Paris) are presented at this exhibition. The famous Bible by Chagall was published in №№ 33–34 (1956) and 37–38 (1960) of Verve, and it has truly become the pinnacle of the artist's creation.
«In art, as in life, everything is possible, if the basis is love», –Marc Chagall once said. He was an artist-humanist who not only loved life in all its manifestations, but has also transformed this love into his works, brightly glorifying love as a divine gift.
The exhibition «Mark Chagall: The Colour of Love» continues the tradition of presenting the art of the great master at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus.
For the first time Belarusian spectators had an opportunity to observe Marc Chagall’s art in 1997, when the painter’s heirs, his granddaughters Bella and Meret Meyer, the organizers of Chagall’s expositions at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus and at the Museum of Marc Chagall in Vitebsk, proposed to celebrate the master’s birthday (the 7th of July) in Belarus with the exhibitions of his works. This tradition has been remained for some years, till 2005. After the exhibition «Marc Chagall. The Works of Mediterranean Time. Gouache Paintings, Watercolours, Lithographs. 1949–1985» (1997), other exhibitions followed: «Marc Chagall. Dedication to Paris» (2000), «Marc Chagall. Landscape Paintings» (2002), and «Marc Chagall and the Stage» (2004) at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. The exhibition «Marc Chagall. Colour in Black-and-White» took place at the National Museum of the History and Culture of Belarus in 2005. Marc Chagall’s works (15 lithographs) were presented at the exhibition «Marc Chagall and Painters of European Avant-Garde» from the collection of the Museum of Marc Chagall in Vitebsk at the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus in 2010. In November 2012 – January 2013, the exhibition «Marc Chagall: Life and Love» from the collection of the Israel Museum (Jerusalem) took place at the Museum. The art works of Marc Chagall from the corporate collection of JSC «Belgazprombank» and the Museum of Marc Chagall in Vitebsk were presented in 2012 at the exhibition «Artists of the Parisian School Originally Coming from Belarus». At the same time, according to the decision of the Belgazprombank’s shareholders, two graphic works by the artist were donated to the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus. In 2014, Chagall's art works from the collection of Belgazprombank were again presented at the exposition «Ten Centuries of Belarusian Art», and in 2017 – at the exhibition «Dottori, Chagall, Soutine, Khodasevich-Léger. Energy, Expression, Symbolism and Dreams. A Look at the Art of Italy in the First Half of the Twentieth Century». Thus, Belarusian spectators have had a unique opportunity to familiarize step by step with multifarious creative heritage of our outstanding fellow-countryman.
Leading Research Assistant of the Department of Russian and Foreign Art
The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus informs that the copyright on the name of Marc Chagall belongs to Comité Chagall, the control over the observance of copyright is carried out by Société des auteurs dans les arts graphiques et plastiques (ADAGP). In this regard, reproduction of the works by Marc Chagall is prohibited without the permission of ADAGP.