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Marc Chagall by Jonathan Wilson
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Chagall was born Moishe Shagal in 1877, in Vitebsk, a town in Belorussia. His parents were Orthodox Jews, were poor, yet his childhood was filled with a sense of stability. His father was a laborer. Chagall lived through the Russian Revolution, World War I and World War II, and was extremely cognizant of his childhood environment and what was occurring on the very streets where he grew up. His Jewish roots can be traced within the lines and strokes of his paintings. His memories of time and place are distinct in his art, no matter the time span. He is humbled by his roots, and one can sense a longing in some of his paintings for his childhood days and his memories of home. Often you will find him depicting himself soaring or floating above the scene or setting in his paintings, often in a tallit/prayer shawl. He was determined to be a man of all seasons, a person who a Russian Jew could look up to, an individual who could appeal to anyone from anywhere.

Marc Chagall is a story that lingers in this reader’s mind. Jewish history is depicted with brilliance throughout the pages, not only through Chagall’s artistic and creative paintings, but through Jonathan Wilson’s vivid imagery and poetic prose paintings of the artist. ( )
1 vote LorriMilli | Feb 25, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805242015, Hardcover)

Part of the Jewish Encounter series

Novelist and critic Jonathan Wilson clears away the sentimental mists surrounding an artist whose career spanned two world wars, the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust, and the birth of the State of Israel. Marc Chagall’s work addresses these transforming events, but his ambivalence about his role as a Jewish artist adds an intriguing wrinkle to common assumptions about his life. Drawn to sacred subject matter, Chagall remains defiantly secular in outlook; determined to “narrate” the miraculous and tragic events of the Jewish past, he frequently chooses Jesus as a symbol of martyrdom and sacrifice.

Wilson brilliantly demonstrates how Marc Chagall’s life constitutes a grand canvas on which much of twentieth-century Jewish history is vividly portrayed. Chagall left Belorussia for Paris in 1910, at the dawn of modernism, looking back dreamily on the world he abandoned. After his marriage to Bella Rosenfeld in 1915, he moved to Petrograd, but eventually returned to Paris after a stint as a Soviet commissar for art. Fleeing Paris steps ahead of the Nazis, Chagall arrived in New York in 1941. Drawn to Israel, but not enough to live there, Chagall grappled endlessly with both a nostalgic attachment to a vanished past and the magnetic pull of an uninhibited secular present.

Wilson’s portrait of Chagall is altogether more historical, more political, and edgier than conventional wisdom would have us believe–showing us how Chagall is the emblematic Jewish artist of the twentieth century.

Visit nextbook.org/chagall for a virtual museum of Chagall images.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:27 -0400)

A portrait of one of the twentieth century's leading artists, Marc Chagall, reveals how his work reflects both a nostalgia for the vanished past and Jewish life in the early twentieth century, and his attraction to the secular goals and mores of modernism.… (more)

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