Marc Chagall – Una retrospettiva 1908-1985

PALAZZO REALE - dal 16/09/2014 al 01/02/2015

PALAZZO REALE

Piazza Del Duomo 12 Milano Italia
+39 02875672

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Generi: arte contemporanea, personale

Autori: Marc Chagall

Curatori: Meret Meyer, Claudia Zevi

La più grande retrospettiva mai dedicata in Italia a Marc Chagall. Oltre 220 opere, prevalentemente dipinti, guideranno i visitatori da Le petit salon (1908), suo primo quadro, fino alle ultime monumentali opere degli anni ’80 del Novecento.“Gli uomini frettolosi di oggi sapranno penetrare nella sua opera, nel suo universo?” è la domanda che si pone Marc Chagall nel 1947 scrivendo la postfazione dell’autobiografia della moglie Bella, che l’ha lasciato “nelle tenebre” morendo all’improvviso tre anni prima.
Ma è una domanda che è lecito porsi anche per la sua opera, quella di un artista che parla un linguaggio così universale da essere amato da tutti, giovani e vecchi, uomini e donne, intellettuali e uomini della strada, e da tutti conosciuto e riconosciuto e che, tra tutti gli artisti del ‘900, è rimasto fedele a se stesso pur attraversando un secolo di guerre, catastrofi, rivoluzioni politiche e tecnologiche.
La mostra Marc Chagall. Una retrospettiva 1908-1985 è promossa dal Comune di Milano-Cultura, è organizzata e prodotta da Palazzo Reale, 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE, Arthemisia Group e GAmm Giunti, è ideata da Claudia Zevi & Partners e curata da Claudia Zevi con la collaborazione di Meret Meyer.
Il percorso scientifico nasce da un interrogativo e da un’esigenza: da una parte il tentativo di capire quale fu la forza che permise a un pittore che pure sperimentò i linguaggi di tutte le avanguardie, di rimanere sempre così coerente con se stesso, sempre curioso di tutto ciò che lo circondava, sviluppando un linguaggio immediatamente riconoscibile alle persone di qualunque età e di qualunque stato sociale; dall’altra, l’esigenza di individuare nell’opera di Chagall, il segreto della poesia di quest’uomo fragile che pure seppe mantenersi sempre fedele alla propria tradizione e, insieme, alla propria umanità in un mondo scosso da catastrofi indicibili e fino ad allora inimmaginabili.
La mostra che si aprirà il 17 settembre a Palazzo Reale di Milano è la più grande retrospettiva mai dedicata in Italia a Marc Chagall, con oltre 220 opere – prevalentemente dipinti, a partire dal 1908, data in cui Chagall realizzò il suo primo quadro, Le petit salon, fino alle ultime, monumentali opere degli anni ‘80 – che guideranno i visitatori lungo tutto il percorso artistico di Marc Chagall, accostando, spesso per la prima volta, opere ancora nelle collezioni degli eredi, e talvolta inedite, a capolavori provenienti dai maggiori musei del mondo, quali il MoMa, il Metropolitan Museum di New York, la National Gallery di Washington, il Museo Nazionale Russo di S. Pietroburgo, il Centre Pompidou, oltre a 50 collezioni pubbliche e private che hanno generosamente collaborato.

Il tema dell’esposizione è dunque centrato su una nuova interpretazione del linguaggio di Chagall, la cui vena poetica si è andata costruendo nel corso del ‘900 attraverso la commistione delle maggiori tradizioni occidentali europee: dall’originaria cultura ebraica, a quella russa, all’incontro con la pittura francese delle avanguardie.
All’interno di un rigoroso e completo percorso cronologico, la mostra si articolerà in sezioni, partendo dalle opere degli esordi realizzate in Russia; durante il primo soggiorno francese, e il successivo rientro in Russia fino al 1921; con l’autobiografia scritta da Chagall al momento del suo definitivo abbandono della Russia, si aprirà il secondo periodo del suo esilio, prima in Francia e poi, negli anni ’40, in America dove vivrà anche la tragedia della morte dell’amatissima moglie Bella; con il rientro in Francia e la scelta definitiva di stabilirsi in Costa Azzurra Chagall ritroverà il suo linguaggio poetico più disteso, rasserenato dai colori e dall’atmosfera del Midi. Lungo il percorso espositivo i visitatori avranno modo di capire come fu possibile che Chagall, pur vivendo in un perenne esilio, non abbia mai perso quel filo rosso che gli tenne sempre nel cuore il bimbo che era stato; come seppe mantenere intatta, attraverso il tempo e le vicissitudini terribili che attraversarono la sua esistenza, la forma dello stupore, la gioia della meraviglia di fronte alla natura e all’umanità e, insieme ad esse, la fiducia di credere e di provare in tutti i modi a costruire un mondo migliore. E ancora scopriranno la sua originalissima lingua poetica, nata dall’assimilazione delle tre culture cui appartiene: la cultura ebraica (dalla cui tradizione visiva dei manoscritti ornati egli trae gli elementi espressivi, non prospettici a volte mistici della sua opera); la cultura russa (cui attinge sia attraverso le immagini popolari dei luboki che attraverso quelle religiose delle icone); la cultura occidentale (in cui assimila grandi pittori della tradizione, da Rembrandt come gli artisti delle avanguardie che frequenta con assiduità). Insieme a tutto questo vedranno anche il suo senso della meraviglia di fronte alla natura, di stupore di fronte alle creature viventi che lo colloca più vicino alle fonti medievali che a quelle novecentesche. I fiori e gli animali, presenza costante nei suoi dipinti, gli consentono da una parte di superare l’interdizione ebraica della raffigurazione umana, mentre dall’altra, come nell’antica cultura medievale russa, essi divengono le metafore di un universo possibile in cui tutti gli esseri viventi possono vivere pacificati. Come ebbe a scrivere Giovanni Arpino: “L’anima di Chagall è un’anima belante, tanto mite quanto invincibile perché sfugge agli orrori, alle insidie, agli oltraggi (…) Il suo paradiso è un Aldiquà che raccoglie i simulacri della vita, è un luogo fisico che diventa metafisico proprio perché noi tutti l’abbiamo ucciso durante la vita quotidiana”.
La sua arte viene a costituire una sorta di metissage fra le culture e le tradizioni e nella volontà di fare della contaminazione un valore, dell’opera d’arte un linguaggio in grado di esprimere alcuni interrogativi a tutt’oggi irrisolti dall’umanità, sta la radice fondamentale della sua modernità.

Il catalogo sarà pubblicato in coedizione da GAmm Giunti e 24 ORE CULTURA.

“Will the hurried men of today be able to penetrate her work, her world?” is the question asked by Marc Chagall in 1947 in the postface to the memoirs of his wife Bella, who left him “in the shadows” following her sudden death three years earlier.
However, this question could also be asked about his own work, the work of an artist who speaks such a universal language that he is loved by everyone alike, both young and old, men and women, scholars and men on the street. Chagall is an artist who is known and recognized by everyone and, out of all the 20th-century artists, was one of the few to remain faithful to himself despite living through a century of wars, catastrophes, political and technological upheavels.
The exhibition ‘Marc Chagall. Una retrospettiva 1908–1985’ is sponsored by the Municipality of Milan-Culture, organized and produced by Palazzo Reale, 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE, Arthemisia Group, GAmm Giunti and Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique / Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België, Bruxelles, conceived by Claudia Zevi & Partners and curated by Claudia Zevi in partnership with Meret Meyer and M&G Investments, leading international asset manager, as sole sponsor.

The exhibition narrative has arisen from a question and a need: on the one hand, the attempt to understand the strength that an enabled an artist who experimented with the styles of all the avant-garde movements, to remain so consistent to himself, always curious about the world around him, developing a style that can be recognized immediately by people of any age and any social status; on the other, the need to study Chagall’s work in order to identify the secret behind the poetry of this fragile man who was yet able to keep faith with his traditions and with his humanity, despite living in a world shaken to the core by indescribable and until then unimaginable catastrophes.

The exhibition will open on 17 September at the Palazzo Reale in Milan and is the biggest retrospective ever devoted to Marc Chagall in the last 50 years in Italy, with over two hundred and twenty works – mainly paintings from 1908 onwards, when Chagall painted his first work Le Petit Salon, right up to his final, monumental works of the 1980s – which will guide visitors through the artistic career of Marc Chagall. Works from the collections of his heirs, some of which have not been exhibited to the public before, will feature alongside masterpieces from the world’s most important museums, including the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the National Gallery in Washington, the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Centre Pompidou, and over fifty public and private collections that have so generously collaborated.

The exhibition theme therefore focuses on a new interpretation of the language of Chagall, whose poetic vein developed throughout the 20th century out of a blend of the best western European traditions: from his original Jewish culture to the Russian culture and his encounter with French avant-garde painting.
The exhibition will feature a comprehensive chronological narrative, which will be divided into sections, starting with his earliest works painted in Russia; his first visit to France and his subsequent return to Russia where he stayed until 1921; the second period of his exile, opened by the autobiography written by Chagall when he left Russia forever, living firstly in France and then, in the 1940s running away from Nazism, in America where he endured the tragedy of the death of his beloved wife Bella; his return to France and his decision to settle permanently on the Cote d’Azur, where Chagall rediscovered his most relaxed poetic language, calmed by the colours and atmosphere of the south.
The exhibition will provide visitors with an understanding of how, despite living in perennial exile, Chagall never lost hold of the thread that kept the child he used to be in his heart; how, over the years and throughout the terrible events that marred his existence, he succeeded in preserving his sense of amazement, joy and wonder inspired by nature and humanity, as well as his strong faith that led him to believe in the possibility of a better world and seek to build it in all possible ways.
Visitors will also discover his highly original poetic language, born out of the assimilation of the three cultures to which he belonged: Jewish culture (the visual tradition of its ornate manuscripts inspired the expressive, non-perspectival and sometimes mystic elements of his work); Russian culture (evident both in the folk images of the luboks and the religious images of the icons); western culture (in which he assimilates the great artists of tradition, from Rembrandt to the avant-garde artists whom he frequented so assiduously).
They will also observe his sense of wonder at nature and the amazement inspired by living creatures that places him closer to mediaeval sources than 20th-century ones.
Flowers and animals are a constant presence in his paintings, enabling him on the one hand to overcome the Jewish interdiction of human depiction, while on the other becoming metaphors for a possible world in which all living beings can live in peace as in Russian mediaeval culture. In the words of Giovanni Arpino: “The soul of Chagall is a bleating soul, as mild as it is invincible because it escapes the horrors, the snares, the outrages … His paradise is an earthly Otherworld that encompasses the simulacra of life, a physical place that becomes metaphysical precisely because we have all killed it during daily life.”
His art constitutes a sort of metissage between cultures and traditions. The fundamental key to his modernity lies in his desire to transform contamination into a value, a work of art into a language able to ask questions that have as yet been left unanswered by mankind.

After Milan the exhibition will travel to the prestigious Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique / Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België, Bruxelles.

The catalogue will be a joint publication by GAmm Giunti and 24 ORE CULTURA.

Press materials: http://bit.ly/V2FUXD

ROOM 1
Marc Chagall
A retrospective, 1887–1985
The unpublished memoirs rediscovered while working on this exhibition reveal the image of Chagall as a painter and a complex man, whose poetic and fabulist vein “betwixt heaven and earth” emerged and grew in strength during his years in exile, and who never renounced his Jewish Russian roots or estranged himself from a historic situation into which all the tragedies of the 20th century flowed.
This will be the tale told by the two hundred and twenty works in the exhibition.

ROOM 2
1907–1914
Early Russian works and visit to Paris
After studying in Bakst’s workshop in St Petersburg, the young painter, who had only just turned twenty, left Vitebsk for Paris. Here he discovered the style of the French avant-garde movements, which he interpreted in the light of images drawn from the Russian and Jewish folk tradition.

ROOM 3
1914–1919
Return to Russia
Having gone back to Vitebsk to marry Bella, he was prevented from returning to the west by the outbreak of the First World War.
His birthplace and his family – the affections that formed Chagall’s world as a child – are the subjects that appear in his paintings from this period.
However, the most prevailing image is that of Bella, often depicted in works that portray couples of lovers.

ROOM 4
1920–1921
Visit to Berlin and Ma vie
Chagall’s decision to write his memoirs in his early thirties coincided with his flight from Russia and his stay in Berlin. His meeting with the gallery owner Paul Cassirer led to his discovery of the importance of drawing. In Ma vie he continued with this new technique, formally reflecting on the graphics and drawing started in Russia at the time of the theatre.

ROOM 5
1914–1919
Depiction of the Jewish world
Throughout his life Chagall described the Jewish world of his origins. The large portraits of old Jews are accompanied, over time, by various versions of the Jew flying over Vitebsk. The sketch of the Rabbi with Lemon (the final version of which was destroyed by the Nazis in the burning of ‘degenerate art’), exhibited next to the later painting, is particularly interesting.
ROOM 6
1915–1917
Love for Bella
The image of Bella predominates the masterpieces of his Russian period. With their seemingly realistic style, they tell the story of requited love and a domestic life full of happiness.

ROOMS 7 and 8
1919–1920
Chagall and the theatre
Chagall too was overcome with enthusiasm for the Russian revolution, so that he was appointed people’s commissioner in Vitebsk.
It was during this period that he developed his creative vein inspired by the great legends of the Russian theatre such as Gogol.
This interest would culminate in his fundamental encounter with the Jewish theatre. Chagall became the interpreter, the producer and the coordinator, transforming the most characteristic aspect of the Jewish culture – a sense of humour – into images.

ROOM 9
1923–1931
Return to France
Chagall returned to Paris where he discovered that all his things were missing from La Ruche: the workshop had been emptied, his paintings had disappeared. However, after the difficult years of the Soviet revolution, his rediscovery of the lights and flowers of France filled him with joy. The painter now focused his attention on studying the great artists of the past, particularly Rembrandt. Through a series of large portraits, the artist emulated the great painters of western tradition.

ROOM 10
1926–27
The Fables of La Fontaine
The gouache cycle of the Fables of La Fontaine, inspired by his fortunate meeting with the great publisher and gallery owner Vollard, is one of the most stunning examples of Chagall’s creative vitality during this period. In them, the artist encounters the work of the classic French novelist, while also illustrating fables, a theme particularly dear to Russian culture. It led to a series of highly original works.
ROOM 11
1925–1931
The flowers of France
The light of France, its sunny countryside and its flowers are reflected in the joyful works of this period, also marked by his brief intellectual connection with the world of Surrealism.
The depiction of windows as the border between the internal and external, as the point of passage between the inner emotional world and the outer natural world, is characteristic of this period.

ROOM 12
1931–1947
Winds of war
The artist’s perception of the thickening dark clouds hanging over his people became apparent from the late 1920s onwards. The colours grew darker, the shadows increased, and the tragic effigies of the crucified Christ and the Madonna appeared alongside those of the Jew in flight and the Rabbi who seeks to save the scrolls of the Torah as he flees.
In 1939 Chagall was forced into exile. Having found refuge in the United States, he then had to endure the terrible loss of his soul mate Bella, who passed away suddenly.

ROOM 13
1943–1966
Chagall and music
Even during the war, art was what saved Chagall from desperation. His encounter with music and his commissions for Tchaikovsky’s Aleko and Stravinsky’s Firebird ballets turned his life-long passion for music into something tangible.
In the 1960s he received monumental commissions for public works, frescoes, mosaics and windows, particularly those for the Opera Garnier in Paris and the Lincoln Art Center of the Metropolitan Theater in New York.

ROOM 14
1946–1951
Return to France
Immediately after the war he started producing large paintings of animals packed with mythological imagery, recreating some archetypal images of Jewish culture. Large portrayals of cows, pendulum clocks with wings and roosters. The figure of the rooster in particular recalls Kaparot, the Jewish sacrifice of atonement during which, on the eve of Yom Kippur, a rooster is sacrificed, symbolically taking on all the sins of the community.

ROOM 15
1951–1975
The Nice years
Chagall was by now a successful artist. The Museum of Modern Art in New York and other major institutions around the world had devoted solo shows to him and he felt his return to France to be permanent. Together with his second wife Vava, he seemed to discover a renewed creative felicity that brought with it new colours, new techniques and new images, such as those of the lovers floating in the sky above St Paul de Vence.
This section will feature an extensive illustration of the differentiation in Chagall’s formal style as a result of increasingly complex choices, such as the use of collages as works of art unto themselves, but also as sketches for large paintings.