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Back to Russia: Marc Chagall's heritage revisited

Back to Russia: Marc Chagall's heritage revisited

The New Jerusalem museum in Moscow Region is staging an exhibition of Marc Chagall’s paintings, prints, livres d’artiste and tapestries. The biggest show of this artist in Russia in decades brings together works from both local and international museums.

The Marc Chagall train has ground to a halt 50 km outside Moscow in the town of Istra.  ‘Chagall: Between Heaven and Earth’ at the New Jerusalem Museum runs until March 8, 2020, so there’s plenty of time to venture into the sticks to catch the show. 

Soaking up praise for that artist (1887-1985) were his wide-eyed granddaughters, Meret and Bella Meyer, obviously surprised by the hype, as a horde of photographers all but swallowed them up. 

Each took turns to explain the art in staccato verse and let the translator do his job. “Chagall has never been more popular and Russia has always been in his heart and works,” Meret said. “In each of his paintings he expresses love, life, and respect. Through his work we are transported into his studio and we see truth and audacity. We see that Chagall is not only a dreamer, but a conscious dreamer.”

The shift in his artistic vision is outlined in the next part, where Chagall’s “earthly” landscapes and portraits make way to more abstract works showing the subjects“flying asleep or awake.” This theme forms the backbone of much of his work and was inspired by his sweetheart, Bella. Her love fuelled the artist’s fantasies. 

The final part of the show is arguably the most striking. Ethereal images like ‘Creation’ (1960) and ‘Moses’ (1973) are the climax of his ability to retell tales from the Bible and Torah as whirling dreamscapes. 

Chagall faced many hardships in his life, the most dramatic one being the obliteration of his hometown Vitebsk, part of the annihilation of European Jewry during World War Two. Out of the town’s pre-war population of 240,000 only 118 survived. 

Despite this, Chagall’s ability to let his mind wander to distant worlds and his unadulterated nostalgia create an overwhelming positive feeling, which shines through his art, described as “one dreamy reverie”of his life. But as the artist himself declared, his hope “was not the dream of one people, but of all humanity.”

Marc Chagall. Between Heaven and Earth

New Jerusalem Museum

Istra, Russia

16 November 2019 – 8 March 2020

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