Page 90 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
ladders, allowing the artist to escape into a dream world o f his
own; and while some object to Chagall’s “eccentricities,” Venturi
excuses them as his sensitive friend’s sharp responses to all dis­
turbing outside stimuli.
* * *
All the volumes discussed so far are richly illustrated, the last
two with full color reproductions
(Burning Lights
contains thirty-
six drawings by Chagall). In each there was substantial reading-
matter, plus (particularly in the volumes by Sweeney and Venturi)
ample bibliographies. There are, however, several publications
where the texts have been limited to a couple of pages. The
Pitman Gallery issued an album of large color reproductions,
with brief introduction by Michael Ayrton, a British artist of
the Jewish faith (New York and London, 1950). Ayrton hails
Chagall’s work as “one man’s hymn to the absurd and moving
spirit of man, in its illogical joy and inevitable sorrow.” Each
reproduction is faced with an appropriate quotation from Chagall’s
own writings. Included is the famous oil, “The Rabbi of Vitebsk,”
owned by the Chicago A rt Institute.
On the cover of Skira’s album (Geneva, Paris, New York,
no date) is another picture of an old rabbi, this one from a private
collection in Geneva. The brief introduction to these unbound
pages (ready for framing) is by Jacques Lassaigne who writes:
“On every new path opened up by modern painting we come
upon this art of Chagall’s, which, though seemingly so personal
and unaltering, takes account, instinctively yet understandingly,
of the most modern problems, and finds its own solutions
for them.”
Among the most beautiful books of 1956 is, undoubtedly,
Marc Chagall:
Illustrations fo r the Bible
(Harcourt, Brace &
Company, New York). In his brief introduction to this volume
of etchings, Meyer Schapiro says, among other things: “ . . . Chagall
expresses a specifically Jewish vision of the Old Testament. But
it is a personal choice and not the carrying out of an already
existing systematic program. He has not followed an older set
of pictures, though certain of his scenes may be found in medieval
illustrated Hebrew manuscripts. Much here is new, and, even in
the rendering of the traditional subjects, it is clear that Chagall
has read the text for himself. Certain of his themes are highly
original and arresting: it is hard to recall other Jewish or Christian
representations like these. We recognize here a fresh approach