Page 91 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 15

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WERNER ----CHAGALL IN ANGLO-SAXON WORLD
81
to the Bible and the response of Chagall’s poetic heart and fertile
imagination.”
1957
saw the publication of
Marc Chagall: His Graphic Work
(Harry N. Abrams, New York). The introduction was written
by the artist’s son-in-law, Franz Meyer, director of the Kunsthalle
in Berne, Switzerland, who also selected from Chagall’s rich
graphic
ouevre
147 etchings, wood cuts, lithographs, and color
lithographs. They are taken from more than twenty books and
portfolios, especially the 1923 Berlin edition of
Mein Leben
,
Arabian Nights
(New York, 1948), Gogol’s
Les Ames Mortes
(Paris, 1948), La Fontaine’s
Fables
(Paris, 1952) and
La Bible
(Paris, 1956). In the introduction, Mr. Meyer writes:
“Chagall’s etchings and lithographs . . . belong . . . among the
most magnificent manifestations of graphic creation in the twenti­
eth century. In them a great painter of the time has expressed
himself in a manner that ranks with his painting. It is not easy
to fit Chagall’s graphic
ouevre
into a preconceived scheme of
evolutionary tendencies in the century’s art. His artistic path,
particularly after the beginning of his graphic activities, crosses
very few others; and it is scarcely possible to note influences that
either affect his graphic work or emanate from it. There is only
one affinity, that to his own painting.”
In a poem, “The Word is Graven,” which follows Professor
Schapiro’s text, Jean Wahl says that Chagall “unlocks the springs,
quenches the fires, times the rock . . . restores old Israel to his
vigor and swathes him in veils of prayer.” Here, the artist is
compared as a Bible illustrator with Rembrandt, Blake and
Tintoretto. From ancient Israel the artist selected three kinds
of superhuman people to celebrate: the great pathfinders, starting
with Noah and ending with Moses; the leaders of the nation;
and the reformers. Thus he drew his inspiration from Genesis and
Exodus, Joshua and Judges, Samuel and Kings, as well as from
the major Prophets. Aesthetically the plates are uneven. There is
real poetry in
Abraham Mourning Sarah
(which would have
enchanted Rembrandt),
Young Joseph As A Shepherd
,
Manoah
and His Wife, David Plays Before Saul
, and other single figures
or small groups that enabled the artist to endow his pictorial
creations with his own expressive face. But he is thwarted by
repetition whenever he attempts mass scenes; in such cases the
picture is often overcrowded, and the composition lopsided or
diffuse.
Modigliani
,
Chagall
,
Soutine
,
Pascin: Aspects of Expressionism
,
by Paolo d’Ancona (Edizione del Milione, Milan, 1955) is the
English version of a volume that originally appeared in Italian.