Chagall: Modern Master a new exhibition at the Tate Liverpool, which celebrates its silver anniversary this year, is the first major exhibition of the Russian painter’s work in the UK for over fifteen years and reveals a radically different artist to the one often presented in art history. The exhibition showcases Marc Chagall (1887–1985) one of the best known and most loved artists of the last century, as a passionate visionary and pioneer of the avant-garde, who combined his own response to the art movements of the day with an open display of affection for his native Russia and Hasidic Jewish heritage. Chagall: Modern Master is a rare opportunity to see a substantial body of work that demonstrates the depth and diversity of Chagall’s art as it matured during the pivotal years of 1911–1922.
The exhibition brings together more than seventy paintings and drawings from major institutions and private collections across the world. The works will be presented in a broadly chronological order, with thematic groupings charting Chagall’s encounters with avant-garde artistic movements, highlighting how he combined these new pictorial languages with his own imaginative and fantastical motifs to create his innovative and expressive works. A major highlight of the exhibition is the rare presentation of the seven large-scale murals designed by Chagall for the State Yiddish Chamber Theatre in Moscow in 1920, on loan from The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Chagall: Modern Master begins with Chagall’s emergence as an artist in his native Vitebsk, in present-day Belarus, and his subsequent training in St Petersburg. It goes on to examine the three crucial years spent in Paris (1911–1914), where he explored his personal relationship to the emerging avant-garde movements of Cubism and Orphism in paintings such as Half Past Three (The Poet) 1911 and Paris Through the Window 1913. The exhibition brings to light how Chagall responded to the traumas of war and religious persecution following a return to his native Russia at the outbreak of the first world war (key works include Departure for War 1914 and Jew in Red 1915), creating the emotional and often illogical paintings that would go on to form the core of his art for the remainder of his life. The eight years Chagall was forced to spend in Russia before he could return to Paris were marked by a ferocious rate of artistic production and the consolidation of his signature painterly style – demonstrated in the exhibition by major works of the period including Anywhere out of the World 1915 and Promenade 1917–18.
The exhibition will also explore the artist’s lifelong interest in the theatre. His commission to decorate the interior of the State Yiddish Chamber Theatre in Moscow was a creative pinnacle and a startling achievement during the political, social and cultural upheavals of the Bolshevik Revolution, which had an immense impact on his life and work. Decoration and figuration are interwoven within vibrantly coloured and detailed compositions in the seven murals. They will be presented at Tate Liverpool as a custom-designed installation that reconstructs the theatre’s original design: an immersive environment nicknamed ‘Chagall’s Box.’ The wall panels Introduction to the Jewish Theatre, Music, Dance, Drama, Literature, Love on the Stage and the epic, eight metre-long The Wedding Feast frieze will all be on display at Tate Liverpool.
Chagall: Modern Master is organised by Kunsthaus Zürich (8 February – 12 May 2013) in collaboration with Tate Liverpool. The exhibition at Tate Liverpool is curated by Simonetta Fraquelli, an independent curator, with Gavin Delahunty, Head of Exhibitions and Displays, Tate Liverpool and Stephanie Straine, Assistant Curator.
Image: Paris Through the Window 1913 © ADAGP Paris and DACS, London 2013