Page 89 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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WERNER — CHAGALL IN ANGLO-SAXON WORLD
79
there will be more than that. The Jewish element will be there
but his art will tend to approach the universal.”
1956
saw the publication in America of two monographs on
Chagall. One is a pocket book (Harry N. Abrams, New York),
with an introduction and comments to pictures by Emily Genauer,
art editor of the
New York Herald Tribune
; the other a new volume
by Lionello Venturi (Skira, New York), much larger than, and
entirely different from, the book of 1945. Miss Genauer’s text is,
inevitably, rather short. She is pleased to note that people have
at last accepted “the idea that imaginative imagery has surely as
much right in painting as in writing, that the painter is as justified
in portraying happy lovers walking on air as we are in describing
them so in everyday speech, that a winged clock is no more far­
fetched than our phrase ‘time flies,’ and that Chagall, perhaps
more than any other painter of our time — giving wing to lovers,
bouquets, musicians, clocks, cows and candlesticks — has also
given wing to our own imagination.”
Venturi writes with the warmth of a friend, and with a vivid
style that retains its elegance even in translation.
Vide
young
Marc’s coming from Vitebsk to Paris “with his baggage of obses­
sions, daydreams and colorful illuminations,” or his guarded
acceptance of cubism: “As against mathematics and science . . .
he set up poetry.” It seems easy to describe Chagall’s develop­
ment, since it followed a straight road, so unlike the zigzag course
taken by some of his contemporaries. But Venturi is still baffled,
after so many years, by the artist’s simplicity of mind, from his
miraculous decision to become a painter (taken in a ghetto milieu
well isolated from the plastic arts) down to the sexagenarian’s
sudden interest in sculpture and ceramics (making strides in both
fields with the sure-footedness of a somnambulist or a child).
Professor Venturi is successful in trimming to correct propor­
tion the often-heard allegation of Chagall’s close affinity to
Russian icons and folk art, but less successful in showing his
links with Judaism (can Hasidism, anchored as it is in the strict
Jewish tradition, be described as a “sort of pantheism” ?). The
author reaches the core of what has been termed “la Chagallite”
by emphasizing as its main characteristics the poetic intermingling
of dream and reality, the conversion of the static into the dynamic,
the hegemony of completely free imagination over intellectual
abstraction; and he quotes approvingly a Parisian critic who
contrasted to Picasso (“ the triumph of the mind”) the phenomenon
of Chagall (“ the glory of the heart”). Where others see a plenitude
of “symbols” in his work, Venturi explains these configurations as