Marc Chagall

By: Sarah Weinman
July 7, 2010

As I write this, and as I have written every piece published somewhere in print and online for the last five years, a print of a painting by MARC CHAGALL (1887-1985) hangs above my desk directly above my computer monitor. All in blue, a figure with his face occluded by mist or by a mask holds his curly-haired lover close, their mouths touching at a perpendicular angle. Or at least, that’s one way to interpret the image, which transcends gender and mood to portray love in its infinite form. A Chagall work isn’t so much about what you see — since he experimented with form, gravitating towards the surreal without quite embracing Picasso’s brash cubism — but about those other four senses and especially what you feel. Klezmer music seems to burst out of his synagogue murals, while dybbuks dance mischievously in and out of other works. That pervasive emotive quality pushed Chagall to excel in so many different disciplines, including book illustrations, stained-glass windows and ceramics, and to travel between continents, identifying himself as an American and European artist in tandem. But throughout Chagall retained an inner core that stamped him, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes defiantly, as a Jewish artist.

ALSO BORN THIS DATE: Robert Heinlein


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