SEVEN DECADES OF CHAGALL

CALIFORNIA

By Lisa Sopher

Published August 01, 2003, issue of August 01, 2003.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art presents “Marc Chagall,” a retrospective that brings together roughly 65 paintings and 88 works on paper by Chagall. The first comprehensive display of the artist’s oeuvre since his death in 1985, the exhibition includes many works never before seen in the United States. The retrospective, which draws on recent scholarship on Chagall, looks at the breadth of the artist’s seven-decade career.

Chagall was born in 1887 in Vitebsk, Russia, the eldest of nine children in a poor chasidic family. He studied art in St. Petersburg and, from 1911 to 1914, in Paris. His religious upbringing inspired many of his paintings, depicting Jewish life, folklore and Bible stories. Chagall returned to Russia in 1915, becoming director of the Art Academy in Vitebsk and designing murals for the State Jewish Chamber Theater in Moscow. In 1923, he moved to France, where he remained until his death, except for a stint in the United States from 1941 to 1948.

The first part of the “Marc Chagall” exhibition features the artist’s early works, in which he attempted to find balance between Russian-Jewish culture and the culture of modernity he discovered in Paris by creating a distinctive, fanciful style. The second section features large-scale murals, addressing the artist’s renunciation of the abstract avant-garde through his Jewish Theater décor. The exhibition continues with mostly small paintings, works on paper and gouaches that have rarely been exhibited; these show Chagall trying to understand and assimilate in France, his new home. In 1948, Chagall moved to St. Paul de Vence in the south of France, where he spent the remainder of his life. Featured works of this period include his landscapes of the Mediterranean.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sat.-Tue. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Thu.-Fri. 10 a.m.-9 p.m., through Nov. 4; $10, $7 seniors, $6 students, free members and children 12 and under, additional $5 for ‘Marc Chagall’ exhibition. (866-468-3399 or www.ticketweb.com)



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