New York exhibit explores Chagall's art during war years, exile

Tue Oct 8, 2013 2:37pm EDT
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By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An exhibit of paintings by the artist Marc Chagall explores a neglected period in Chagall's career in Paris during the rise of fascism in the 1930s and while he was in exile in New York during the 1940s.

"Chagall: Love, War and Exile," which runs through February 2 at the Jewish Museum, includes 31 paintings and 22 works on paper, and selected letters, poems and photographs.

The works in the exhibit, divided into four galleries, show how Chagall used the image of Christ on the cross to depict the suffering of Jews.

"Chagall approached this subject in a very personal way. In certain works the image of the Jewish Jesus conveyed his personal angst while in others he equated the martyrdom of Jesus on the cross with the persecution of the Jewish people," said Susan Tumarkin Goodman, the curator of the exhibit.

The artist, who was born in 1887 in Vitebsk in Belarus to a religious family, created a simple line drawing of the Crucifixion as early as 1908, but it did not become a prevalent image in his work for another three decades.

After the Russian Revolution, Chagall moved to Paris with his wife and daughter. Goodman said living away from his homeland inspired work based on memories of his childhood.

Chagall drew on symbols meaningful to both Jews and Christians. A 1933 painting, "Solitude," shows a Jew wrapped in a prayer shawl, holding a Torah scroll as an angel flies skyward.

"'Solitude' was done in direct response to Hitler's election as chancellor of Germany and the onset of the Nazi regime," said Goodman. "It's a very melancholy picture, a foreshadowing of things to come."   Continued...

A visitor walks past a painting by artist Marc Chagall titled "Solitude" at the "Love, War, and Exile" exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York, in this September 10, 2013, file photo. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Files