I recently read the book "The Bridal Chair" by Gloria Golderich, about Marc Chagall and, equally and perhaps even more so, his daughter Ida, and the role she played in saving his art and getting it out of Nazi-occupied France in World War II.
(Most of the photos in this post, unless otherwise credited, are those I've taken at Art Institute of Chicago, Paris Opera Garnier and on the Chicago streets at Chase Tower Plaza on Dearborn Street.)
Although by the time I finished the book, I didn't much like Chagall or his daughter as people, I remain a devoted fan of his work. Chagall himself was an extreme narcissist. He and his beloved wife Bella, his muse and often featured in his work, barely made it out of France in WWII because he believed the Nazis would never arrest the famous Marc Chagall. (Like some other narcissists of past and present, he often spoke of himself in the third person.)
The fact that they did was due only to the diligence of Ida and her first husband, Michael Rapaport (later Gordey, French Bureau Chief of Voice of America). It was Ida and Michael who actually got the art of out Paris.
According to Golderich, Ida, vibrant and with increasing power through her manipulative charm, was more like a wife to her father than a daughter, addressing his needs before her own and damaging her marriage in the process. In addition to representing him to dealers and museum curators, overseeing his shows and collaborating with him on projects, she chose his homes, acted as his hostess for the many salons he hosted and essentially ran his life.
This didn't set well with the mother of his son, Virginia, who served as his housekeeper and lover after Bella's death, or his second equally manipulative wife, Vava. (This is a book where I only liked one or two of the characters!)
But the art! Ah, the art. It told of the Jewish experience. Indeed, the man who rarely -- if ever in his life -- set foot in a synagogue created art that told of pogroms and exile and of great joys and love as well.
Most who are familiar with Chagall's art think of his paintings -- none of which I've shared here. Many of these works of art focus on his Jewish experience -- his youth and young adulthood in Russia, the fleeing of anti-semitism in that country to Paris and again having to flee in World War II.
What many don't realize is that he approached a variety of media with equal zeal and passion, especially later in his life after achieving a reputation as a great artist of the period. These include mosaics, stained glass, pottery, scene and costume design for opera and ballet, and architectural elements.
The artist always considered Paris and France his home, although his time in Russia prior to emigrating was never far from his heart. During his war and post-war years in American, he longed to return "home," and when he was able, returned to France.
His ceiling for the Paris Opera Garnier (1964) was initially met with criticism, much of it veiled anti-Semitism. He was foreign born (a Russian Jew) and a modernist. But the work has since been lauded as a complex work of art, celebrating the music and composers who were often a part of the opera's repertoire.
Created of twelve canvas panels encircling a round central panel, the piece measures about 2580 square feet or 240 metres. The design of the panels echo the colors on the stage in the characters of such composers as Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Stravinsky, Bizet, Debussy, Ravel and Mozart, among others.
The Four Seasons, in Chicago's Chase Plaza was done in 1974.
It is essentially a 70 foot box that stands 14 feet high and ten feet wide. It took a good deal of abuse from the windy city's rough winters (and no doubt, some hooliganism) and was covered with a glass "box" in later years.
The subjects of the piece resonate with those who know Chagall's paintings. It is an overall celebration of the four seasons.
Its images include birds, flowers, lovers and animals mingle in brightly colored shards of tile. The artist created the design on panels in France and they were later transported and installed in Chicago.
The American Windows of the Art Institute of Chicago were done in 1977 and were a gift from Chagall by commission to the institution. The panels combine symbols from American history, the Chicago skyline and arts that include music, painting, dance, theatre, literature and architecture.
Created in collaboration with French stained-glass artist Charles Marq, the instalation features 36 colored glass panels. Chagall painted his designs onto the glass, which more than 30 feet wide and eight feet tall. There are three parts in each window with twelve separate sections that highlight the various subjects.
There is much to love in the work of Chagall and in many ways, the less I knew about him, the better I liked him and his work. I still love the work and always will.
You can find more of a review of "The Bridal Chair" on my post HERE.
For other references that amplify information in this post, you may want to check out the links below.
This post is part of Paris In July, a month-long blog post hosted by Tamara of Thyme for Tea and Deb of Readerbuzz. Visit either of their sites for links to more posts related to the books, art, film, food and travel experiences in the City of Light.