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