The one hundred major works by Marc Chagall to be seen here at the Museum Frieder Burda in Baden-Baden have been kindly loaned to us by galleries of international renown: by the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Musée dArt moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza in Madrid, the Musée de Grenoble, Musée de Saint Etienne, Musée des Beaux-Arts in Liège, the Kunstsammlung North Rhine-Westphalia in Düsseldorf, the Adolf und Luisa Haeuser Stiftung für Kunst und Kulturpflege of Frankfurt am Main and by numerous other public and private collections the world over.
The outstanding works of art assembled here exclusively for this exhibition provide a representative cross-section of every creative period in Chagalls life, starting with the years in Russia immediately before and after the October Revolution of 1917, the period after he left Russia for Berlin and then Paris in 1922, and his final years in the south of France. As the title of the exhibition implies, the Museum Frieder Burda designed for the eponymous art collector by New York-based architect Richard Meier literally causes these large-format paintings to appear to us in a new light. Wandering through the various galleries, each of which offers its own unique vista of the surrounding park, visitors will be able to gain an insight into Chagalls very long and very prolific life, from his childhood in Vitebsk, the Belorussian town in which he was born in 1887, to Saint Paul in Provence, where he died in 1985.
That the world of dreams and miracles still exists today is thanks in no small part to Chagall, an artist who has remained unparalleled in the history of modern art ever since he began painting in the early twentieth century. No one flooded my eyes with light the way he did, wrote the poet, Louis Aragon, himself just one of several famous writersthe list includes such illustrious names as Blaise Cendrars, Guillaume Apollinaire, Paul Eluard and André Malrauxto respond to the richly poetic quality of Chagalls works. Nowhere, perhaps, is this unique blend of the pictorial and the poetic more apparent than in his book illustrations, which is why this show also includes costly editions of Nicolai Gogols Dead Souls, the Fables of Jean de la Fontaine, the Bible and the ancient romance of Daphnis and Chloé.
Wrought in a highly innovative and above all lavish idiom, Chagalls oeuvre reflects the cultural history of a Europe blighted by the most appalling wars and revolutions. This is no more true of the early works painted while Chagall was still living in Vitebsk than it is of his output in Berlin, Paris and New York and even of the mature works produced in the south of France. It is especially apparent in the famous ensemble of eight monumental murals created in 1920 for the Jewish Theater in Moscow, kindly loaned to the Museum Frieder Burda by the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The Apparition, meanwhile, a masterly work dated 1917/1918, belongs to a private collector in Russia, while the magnificent Promenade of 1918 can normally be viewed only in the State Russian Museum of St. Petersburg. Another outstanding early work dated 1911, For Russia, for Donkeys, and for Others, belongs to the collection of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris which also contributed many of the major mature works, among them The Dance of 1950, Red Roofs of 1952, The Blue Circus of 195052 and Easter of 1968. What is most striking about these late works is the extent to which they express the regenerative power of constant change. This is very much in evidence in Mauve Nude of 1967, kindly loaned to us from a private collection, and in the clowns, jugglers and acrobats brought together by stagecraft and music in the Commedia dell Arte of 1958 from the Adolf und Luisa Haeuser Stiftung für Kunst und Kulturpflege of Frankfurt am Main. In Don Quichotte, meanwhile, a work dating from 1975 that also belongs to a private collection, we can see the aging Chagall recalling the never-ending dreams of a young painter.
Chagalls pictures invariably transport us into a magical world teeming with fabulous creatures and characters. His poetic reach takes in both Biblical themes and the world of acrobats and artistes, one of his most moving motifs being lovers entwined in each others arms and wreathed in a myriad of flowers. Drawing on his Jewish-Russian roots as an inexhaustible source of inspiration, Marc Chagall continued reimagining this essentially spiritual narrative right to the end of his days and in doing so conveyed a message of hope and freedom that even now, at the dawn of the third millennium, has lost none of its relevance or urgency.
The 240-page exhibition catalogue in German and French containing some 150 color illustrations is published by Hatje Cantz and can be purchased in the Museum Shop or at other bookstores for 25.00.