The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes. MARCEL PROUST

If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. WILLIAM BLAKE

Wanderer, there is no way; the way is made by walking. ANTONIO MACHADO

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Chagall At The Liverpool Tate

Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love. MARC CHAGALL



Last September we went to the UK's first major Chagall exhibition in fifteen years at the Liverpool Tate. We were overwhelmed by the colour and vibrancy of the paintings, and their visceral and emotional immediacy, and how they exceeded one hundredfold the reproductions we'd been admiring in books and on postcards and via computer images for so long. There's simply no substitute for the real-life exhibit or performance, whether it be a painting, sculptural work or piece of music. We stood before The Poet Reclining . . .


. . .  and The Promenade . . .


. . . and wondered, and were amazed, and felt extremely happy.

I've been reading Chagall's poetic, impressionistic, concisely-written 1922 memoir, My Life. It's wonderful. This, from the early pages, about his childhood town (his shtetl, he was a Russian Jew) of Vitebsk (now in Belarus):

In those days there was still no cinema. People went home or to the shop. That's what I remember . . . I say nothing of the sky and stars of my childhood. They are my stars, my sweet stars; they accompany me to school and wait for me in the street till I return. Poor things, forgive me. I have left you alone up there at such a dizzy height! My sad, my joyful town! As a boy, I would watch you from our doorstep, childlike. To a child's eyes you were so dear. When the fence blocked my view, I would climb on to a little wooden post. If I still could not see you, I would climb up on to the roof. Why not? Grandfather used to climb there too. And I would gaze at you as long as I liked.


In Paris, between 1911 and 1914, Chagall discovered a lumière-liberté: light, colour, freedom, the sun, the joy of living! But he would always remain true to his Russian-Jewish homeland. He learnt from Fauvism and Cubism, but did not follow them. He has been called the father of Expressionism; he anticipated Surrealism. His varied pictures show aspects of all these movements, but Chagall never identified with any one school or style. His paintings are unique. They are naïve, narrational, mystical, lyrical, colourful, inward, visionary, subjective, anti-naturalist, anti-formalist, anti-intellectual, poetic, primitive, nostalgic, ambiguous, dreamlike, transcendent.     


Picasso painted with his belly and me, I paint with my heart. MARC CHAGALL

9 comments:

George said...

An interesting post, Robert. The third painting you feature is especially interesting to me, because I have never seen Cubist elements used so forcefully in a Chagall.

Goat said...

Beautiful words and yes, such colour. Loved his words about the stars, too. That top one is close to how I imagine my retirement; the second is how I like to stroll with my sweet gal. It takes practice but the rewards are great.

Friko said...

I do so very much agree with you that nothing comes close to the real thing, painting, theatre, music. I will put up with a ‘reproduction’ if I can’t get anything else, but would move mountains for the immediacy of art in the flesh.

Have you read Bella Chagall’s books on her life with Marc? They are absolutely delightful and well worth searching for. I fell in love with Chagall because of them.

The Solitary Walker said...

Chagall was influenced by contemporary movements — he incorporated them and then moved on. As I wrote in the piece, his work is a mixture of many elements and influences, which he forged into his own unique and recognisable style. Thanks for your comment, George.

That's impressive, Goat! Kate is such a swinger!

There's nothing like the unrepeatable immediacy of a live performance or an original work of art is there, Friko? I haven't read Bella's books but would like to do so.

Ruth Mowry said...

Wonderful! I knew little about Chagall before pairing many of his paintings with Rilke quotations and poems at A Year with Rilke a couple of years ago. I was blown away by the volume of his work. But far beyond the volume, I was impressed by the intensity of feeling and connection with Vitebsk, with his wife, and with the sky! I love what you've written and shared about him and that you were able to see and feel him and his paintings.

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the piece, Ruth!

am said...

Thank you so much for this. Just what I was needing to see and read.

Along with Jacob Lawrence and Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall is a favorite of mine. In 1982, I was fortunate enough to see some of his paintings in New York City. It was astonishing to me how they appeared to have been freshly painted and how large they were. They came alive to me in reproductions and moved me, but seeing them in person gave them was a spiritual experience!

I, too, have read Marc Chagall's memoir and Bella's writing. Extraordinary!

"Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love" --- MARC CHAGALL

The Solitary Walker said...

I'm so pleased you liked this, Am. Yes, there are Chagall canvases of all sizes, some huge, though 'The Poet Reclining' was smaller than I'd imagined. I know what you mean about the real-life paintings affecting one spiritually. We had that experience too.

dritanje said...

thank you for this, solitary walker. And after that quote from Chagall's My Life, I see that's another book I will have to read...