Friday, September 26, 2014

Marc Chagall: The Quintessential Jewish Artist of the 20th Century

Chagall original lithograph "L'Inspire" Inspiration
Starting with 1907's "Young Woman on a Sofa (Mariaska)" and concluding with 1983's "Sun in the sky of Saint-Paul" (Soleil dans le ciel de Saint-Paul), Marc Chagall (1887-1985) had an incredibly long and productive artistic career. Born Moishe Segal (or Shagal) in the town of Liozna near Vitebsk, Russia (now Belarus), Marc Z. Chagall was raised a Russian Hasidic Jew at a time when Jews were considered second-class citizens in the Russian Empire. He spent much of his life emigrating from country to country to avoid persecution.

Traveling to Paris at age 23, where he spent the next four years, he became totally enamored by the country and French artists. He went back to Russia in 1914, where he'd planned a brief visit only, but got sidetracked by closed borders during WWI and then by the 1917 Revolution. He became one of Russia's most distinguished artists, alternately called an avant-garde modernist, and later the "quintessential Jewish artist" of the 20th Century. Chagall worked in many artistic disciplines, including: painting, illustrations, stage scenery and sets, stained glass, fine art prints, tapestries, and ceramics. During his long career he produced more than 10,000 works of art. Here's a brief snapshot of four of them.

"Printemps" (Spring) is a 1938 color lithograph published in Paris in Number 3, Volume 1 of Verve, the deluxe art revue. It was published by Tériade and printed by Mourlot in approximately 2000 unsigned copies. Chagall frequently featured musical instruments in his works and often worked music into his subject matter. He was also known for creating artwork for musical venues, such as the ceilings in the Paris Opera House and also backdrop paintings found in the Lincoln Center. This whimsical lithograph of a violin-playing goat with a girl sitting on his shoulder measures 14" X 10.25".

"Pliouchkin looking for his Papers" is an original etching with drypoint. It has full margins on a sheet measuring 11" X 15". The actual plate size is 8-3/8" X 10-7/8". This is a  very nice impression showing plate tone and is in fine condition. It's printed on J. Perrigo watermarked wove paper. This is an example of Chagall's earliest etchings, part of the "Dead Souls" collection initially executed/printed between 1923-1927 and then stored in the warehouse of Ambroise Vollard, where they stayed hidden after Vollard's untimely death in a car accident and Chagall's escape from German-occupied France to America. Tériade finally published this etching in 1948.

"Eve incurs God's Displeasure" an original color lithograph from Chagall's well-known "Illustrations for The Bible," shows Eve in The Garden, naked and appearing guilty as the result of her sin. It was printed by Mourlot and published by Tériade in 1956 for a special issue of Verve Magazine dedicated to the artist's Bible themes. This issue of Verve contained copies of 18 full-color and 12 black-and-white lithographs. This 14" X 10.25" sheet is one of 6500 unsigned copies. The subject matter is a reference to Genesis 3:16.

"L'Inspire" (Inspiration) an original Chagall color lithograph on wove paper, was pulled by Mourlot in 1963 Paris and published in the Chagall Lithographe II catalogue raisonné. L'Inspire was one of twelve original Chagall lithographs specially created for that volume. The sheet measures 12.5" X 9.5" and is not signed. Actual image area size is 8.75" X 11.75". This lithograph was executed the same year that Chagall was commissioned to paint (as a gift) the ceiling of the Paris Opera House. They're both childlike in their simplicity, rich in color, and full of dream-images from the artist's subconscious.

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