Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Marc Chagall ~ The Early Years

As I began to read about Marc Chagall, nee Moishe Segal, I realized that my ancestors came from Russia.  Granted it is a very big place.  But I became curious.  While my ancestors left Russia in the late 1800's, could we have come from similar parts of the world?

I did some research and sent an email that included my ancestor's names and asked if they could tell me where my family was from.  I don't know if I'll get the answer from this site.  Or how many sites I'll need to check but now I want to know more, more than ever before.

Moishe Segal, Chagall, had a very simple upbringing with a good family and in a close knit Jewish community in Vitebsk.  He studied drawing and painting in the Yehuda Pen for free because of his daring manner of using colors.  Cool.

He was the eldest of nine children.  Everyone he was related to or could get to sit for him he drew and painted.  The images he created in those formative years remained a constant source of inspiration throughout the rest of his life.

In 1907, Marc Chagall went to Saint Petersburg.  He was 19 years old.  He was artistic and extremely poor and suffered from the severity of discrimination in Saint Petersburg.  The attitudes of people about revolution and culture and the avante-garde are reflected in his work.  He was influenced by the French fauvism and German expressionism and Italian futurism.  Though he lived and worked mostly in solitude.  Which is

He continued to study art for two more years at Zvantseva's School of drawing and painting and he was a student of Leon Bakst.   Leon Bakst encouraged him to go to Paris.

I find this intriguing....
In 1909 in Vitebsk he met Bella Rosenfeld and he wrote this, "...Her silence is mine, her eyes mine.  It is as if she knows everything about my childhood, my present, my future, as if she can see right through me; as if she has always watched over me, somewhere next to me, though I saw her for the very first time.  I knew this is she, my wife.  Her pale colouring, her eyes.  How big and round and black they are!  They are my eyes, my soul...""My Life."  In July 1915 they married and she would always be his first love, wife and muse.
One thing that strikes me is, "Her silence is mine,"

In 1910 Chagall received a scholarship which enabled him to go to Paris to study.  It was there that he took on his pseudonym, in the French manner, Marc Chagall.

He loved going to museums and dug Delacroix, Courbet, Cezanne, Gaugin, and van Gouch, among others.  And he got into the fauvist method where his colors began to sing.  He hung out with poets and writers and painters and he bathed in the new approaches to art, cubism, futurism and orphism.  His work took on a life of its own and he was very creative.

The Death. 1908
Marc Chagall. The Death. 1908     

Holy Family. 1909

 Marc Chagall. Holy Family. 1909

Birth. 1910
 Marc Chagall. Birth. 1910

In 1914 he exhibited several of his canvases in an exhibit and this also included about 150 watercolors, in Berlin.  When we went back to visit his family WWI broke out and this delayed his return to Europe.  Bella's brother Jacob helped him to avoid recruitment in the army and to find a job at the Military Industrial Committee in Petrograd.  In 1918 he was offered the post of Chief of Fine Arts in Petrograd but he refused it and instead served as a representative of the arts in Vitebsk.  He was a good organizer and published an article titled, "Revolution in Art."

In 1920 Marc and Bella and their daughter Ida, who was born in 1916, moved to Moscow where Chagall participated in theatrical life by creating sets for performances.  Which is also pretty cool.
I did that for a time too.

He created nine monumental paintings on the walls and his work was not understood.  It was at this time that he was forced to leave the country.  For one year after his departure Bella and Ida lived in Berlin which became a shelter for emigrants from Russia and other countries.    He was hoping to make some money on selling his artwork at that exhibition in 1914 but he got screwed.  He only got back three paintings and a dozen watercolors and no money.  He was in Berlin and published a book called, "My Life."  He illustrated it himself.    At the end of the summer in 1923 he got a letter from an old friend in Paris telling him that he was now famous and he needed to come back.  Ambroise Vollard was waiting for him.  Though many of the paintings he had created had become lost he used sketches and did reproductions of Birthday, I and the Village, Over Vitebsk and others.

The Violinist. 1911-1914

Marc Chagall. The Violinist. 1911

To My Betrothed. 1911
Marc Chagall. To My Betrothed. 1911
Golgotha. 1912
 Marc Chagall. Golgotha. 1912

Paris through the Window.1913
Marc Chagall. Paris through the Window. 1913

I have never looked at that many paintings of Chagall.  I am very familiar with the ones in the Art Institute.  But I am diggin' the way he gets that the canvas is a place where he can create and express what he feels that does not have to look exactly like the real world. 

At some point some one asked me how I would describe my work.  And I thought about it and said that it is an expression of something metaphysical, some thing about life that I feel.  And that I let the image develop, like a stream of consciousness becoming what it will be right there on the canvas.  I did not know about the German expressionist movement and I did not know about the Blue Rider Group or the Fauvists or much about Marc Chagall.  But all alone, in my solitude I would up being inspired by a world that I often could not understand and painting has been my way of expressing what it feels like.

As I find out more about these guys, it strikes me what that teacher from NYC said about my work.  About me being an Expressionist.  I had never heard of that before.  I'm feeling so at how at home with what I've been learning.  I don't mean that my work is equal to or similar to these guys that were in the "Degenerate Art: Fate of the Avante-Garde in Nazi Germay,"  but there are connections that I'm feeling that is so way cool.  Most of my life I've been reclusive and haven't had much to compare with.

So when I read how Chagall painted some canvases a second time because the first ones were lost, I could relate with that.  I painted some of mine twice for different reasons but yeah.  Like while I was experimenting and figuring out how to create and use glazes, I destroyed a canvas, Woman Waiting that I had worked on for about a year.  It was so disappointing that I could get the finish to look right and so I destroyed it and painted it again.  It looks different but its similar.

Woman Waiting

Later I painted Windhorse and gave it to my attorney and then missed it so much I referred to a picture of it and painted it again.  And when I painted Schroedinger's Cat and accidentally scraped a hole in the canvas and painted that one again.  In fact, now that I think about it, I also painted Moment of Truth twice.  The first time I painted it the image was so powerful, right off the bat and it came so easy that I thought, I need to do more.  I worked it too much and ruined it.  I cut it up with a knife and threw it in the fire pit and lit it on fire on my farm in Michigan.  Then, freed from its ghost I approached a canvas with this idea again and it too did not take as long as my paintings usually take.  Most of them take at least a year to paint.  This one only took two or three months.

Moment of Truth

I learned when I don't see any other part of the canvas that I want to change or that I think needs more work, then it is finished.  And then I sign it.  And wait and look at it in different lights and still I may change a little here and there.  Add a highlight or add some shading.... whatever it may need.  So its cool to read that Chagall painted images again that had once been lost.  Maybe more artists do this than I know of.  Maybe people don't like to admit doing a canvas twice.  I don't know.

Chagall ~ he knocks me out.

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