Saturday, 31 August 2013

Chagall Modern Master - Tate Liverpool - Review

Tate Liverpool has established a reputation for putting on a major exhibition each summer that takes a somewhat quirky approach to the artist (Picasso Peace and Freedom 2010; Magritte the Pleasure Principle 2011; Turner, Monet, Twombly 2012). Chagall Modern Master, like its recent predecessors, does not set out to be a comprehensive biopic, rather it focuses on a formative period in the artist's career. The exhibition draws out the importance of the three years in Paris (1911-14) and their influence on the subsequent eight years in Russia (1914-22). 
The decade 1911-22 saw Chagall move from St Petersburg to Paris, where he engaged with the Cubist movement and was one of the most productive and successful times of his career. Chagall's happy sojourn in Paris came to an end in 1914 when the outbreak of WWI prolonged an intended three month visit to relatives in Vitebsk to eight years. 
Some of the undoubted highlights of the exhibition are the large canvasses, such as I and the Village (1911), The Green Donkey (1911) and The Soldier Drinks (1911-12), that combine Parisian Cubist and Fauvist influences with what became his signature themes depicting aspects of the life of Russian Jewry and of his native Vitebsk. 
This period was when Chagall became engaged (1910) and subsequently married (1914) to Bellamy Rosenfeld and thus it is understandable that some of the subject matter explores the theme of love. Lovers in Blue (1914) is an exquisite piece that captures the tenderness of moment as the couple's lips fuse into one. 
The curators are to be congratulated on bringing together such a broad range of canvasses from this period. In particular, it was a treat to be able to see "Chagall's Box" (1920) reconstructed in one room. This work comprises a series murals that were commissioned for the State Jewish Chamber Theatre: Introduction to the Jewish Theatre, Music, Dance, Drama, Literature, Love on Stage and The Wedding Feast. The exhibition closes with a rather odd glimpse of Chagall's later works, which, although the individual pieces were of merit, rather detracted from the initial theme, giving the (false) impression that the curators had run out of steam.

Chagall Modern Master is at Tate Liverpool until 6th October and is well worth the visit.

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