In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love. – Marc Chagall
Considering all the turmoil that Marc Chagall witnessed and experienced throughout his lifetime, it’s remarkable to see the optimism, playfulness and joy in his art. Chagall was born in 1887, in Liozna, which was part of the Russian Empire. He was the oldest of nine children in an Orthodox Jewish family at a time when Jewish children were not allowed to attend regular schools or universities.
The family experienced pogroms, two World Wars, which destroyed his childhood city, and in which most of the Jewish population perished. Chagall clung to his determination to create art, always evoking the traditions that sustained him throughout his life.
Marc Chagall’s Letters at Auction
Marc Chagall spent most of his adult life living and working in France. He naively believed, at the beginning of World War ll, that he and his family would be protected from Nazi persecution in France. It wasn’t until 1941 that, with prodding from his daughter, Ida, that he agreed to leave their home in Vichy and escape to New York. Chagall and his wife, Bella, managed to make it to New York with the help of MoMA’s director, Alfred Barr and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC).
Ida and her husband had a more difficult time leaving France. With a suitcase full of her father’s paintings, to protect them from destruction by the Nazis, Ida and her husband boarded the SS Navemar, a cargo ship carried over 1,000 European Jewish refugees to the United States in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.
Letters that Chagall wrote to General Morris Troper and his wife Ethel, prominent figures in the JDC, were auctioned at the 62nd Street Synagogue in Manhattan in September.
“We read today (in a Russian newspaper) that ‘Navemar’ is a floating concentration camp;” a worried Chagall wrote to the Tropers, “that there is no water or the least of conveniences. Oh God, how the people suffer there.” The Chagall family was finally reunited in New York. The paintings survived the trip, but some passengers died and others contracted typhus during the seven-week voyage.
Marc Chagall’s Work Greets Visitors at New Athens Museum
After more than twenty-five years of planning, the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation opened a museum in Athens, Greece this week, that houses works by European maters that the couple collected during their lifetime.
The new Neo-classical-inspired building is an 11 story-space, with 5 floors dug below ground. Among the first works visitors will see in the museum is a 1966 portrait of Elise by Marc Chagall, created in 1966.
In 1979, Basil and Elise opened the Museum of Contemporary Art in Andros (the island of Basil’s birth), which was then the country’s first museum devoted to modern art.
The couple did not live to see the result of their years of planning. Basil, a shipping magnate, died in 1994. Elise died in 2000.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist…
A few weeks ago, Jeopardy! contestant, Jason Zuffranieri, a former rocket scientist and math teacher, was the only contestant who knew the answer to “The title of the 1964 Broadway musical inspired by a Marc Chagall painting.”
Of course, we all know the answer: “What is Fiddler on the Roof?”
The Works of Marc Chagall at the Surovek Gallery
Please contact us if you would like more information about Le Abret Verte (The Green Tree) or any of the fine works available at the Surovek Gallery.
Hakim Bishara. How Marc Chagall’s Daughter Smuggled His Artwork to the US. Hyperallergic. September 13, 2019.
Cindy Adams. Marc Chagall’s WWII-era letters going to auction in September. Page Six. August 26, 2019.
Assil Giacheia. Van Gogh, Picasso, and El Greco Masterpieces Find New Home in Athens. The Greek Reporter. September 24, 2019.
Harold McNeil. WNY native marks 17th straight ‘Jeopardy!’ win. The Buffalo News. September 23, 2019.