“School of Paris exhibition”
Since June we have been hosting the School of Paris exhibition featuring works by Chagall and Soutine and other Jewish artists.
This exhibition which has raised our standing on Manchester’s cultural circuit.
Through this and through our current partnership with Tate Liverpool, which is showing “Chagall Modern Master” we are attracting a new audience of art lovers.
I was lucky enough to visit “Chagall Modern Master” in Liverpool at the weekend. It is fascinating to learn how Chagall’s work developed and changed over time and how the works we are exhibiting fit into this. Chagall left his home village early in his life to break free of religious restrictions and yet most of his works contain Jewish symbols and references.
Here we are exhibiting two completely contrasting works by Chagall: – L’Acopalyse en Lilas, a response to the Holocaust and Le Cheval et L’Ane (the Horse and the Donkey), an illustration for one of La Fontaine’s fables.
The stories behind each these works are interesting.
Chagall was invited by Vollard an art dealer to illustrate La Fontaine’s famous fables, which are an important part of French culture. But people objected saying this was inappropriate as Chagall was a Russian Jew and not a French citizen. Vollard ignored the objections as he felt Chagall’s style had much in common with La Fontaine. As a result Chagall illustrated many of La Fontaine’s fables and they are all magical and charming.
Chagall and his wife Bella had escaped from the Nazi occupation of Franceand were living outside New York. There she fell ill and died. Chagall was devastated and his artistic output stopped abruptly. A little later he was horrified by the images of the Holocaust being shown in newspapers and Pathe news reels and this reignited his creativity. He came out of mourning and produced “Apocalypse en Lilas” and other works as a protest against the treatment of his fellow Jews.
The exhibition also shows works created by lesser known Easter European Jewish artists working in Paris at the same time as Chagall and Soutine. My own personal favourite is by Itshak Frenkel-Frenel. It’s only a small piece. Called “Shabbat Blessing” it is drawn in a cubist manner, and shows a woman lighting shabbos candles. The style itself means you really have to look at it before the woman’s headscarf, hands and the shabbos candlesticks emerge. In this 1920s drawing by an artist relatively unknown to me I can recognize a familiar weekly ritual carried out in Jewish families right through the centuries and up to the present time and beyond. And that’s why I like it!