Category / Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall: I Am…

Marc Chagall in studio“I am a child who is getting on.” –Marc Chagall

“Chagall, the Russian-born painter who went against the current of 20th-century art with his fanciful images of blue cows, flying lovers, biblical prophets and green-faced fiddlers on roofs, had a firm idea of who he was and what he wanted to accomplish. But when it came to guarding his privacy, he was a master of deflection. Sometimes when people approached to ask if he was that famous painter Marc Chagall, he would answer, “No,” or more absurdly, “I don’t think so,” or point to someone else and say slyly, “Maybe that’s him.” With his slanting, pale-blue eyes, his unruly hair and the mobile face of a mischievous faun, Chagall gave one biographer the impression that he was “always slightly hallucinating.” One of those who knew him best, Virginia Haggard McNeil, David’s mother and Chagall’s companion for seven years, characterized him as “full of contradictions—generous and guarded, naïve and shrewd, explosive and secret, humorous and sad, vulnerable and strong.”

“Chagall himself said he was a dreamer who never woke up. “Some art historians have sought to decrypt his symbols,” says Jean-Michel Foray, director of the Marc Chagall Biblical Message Museum in Nice, “but there’s no consensus on what they mean. We cannot interpret them because they are simply part of his world, like figures from a dream.” Pablo Picasso, his sometime friend and rival (“What a genius, that Picasso,” Chagall once joked. “It’s a pity he doesn’t paint”), marveled at the Russian’s feeling for light and the originality of his imagery. “I don’t know where he gets those images. . . . ” said Picasso. “He must have an angel in his head.” -Smithsonian

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Creative Relationships Marc Chagall Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso & Marc Chagall

“What a genius, that Picasso. It is a pity he doesn’t paint.” -Marc Chagall

“Picasso and Marc Chagall, two of the greatest painters of the last century, were friends until a dinner at Chagall’s place in 1964. “When are you going back to Russia?” Picasso asked his host. They were both expatriots living in France. Chagall was Russian and Picasso was Spanish. “After you,” said Chagall with a smile. “I hear you are greatly loved there [Picasso was a Communist] but not your work. You try to make it there and I’ll wait and see how you do.”

Picasso didn’t like that answer much. It was after dinner, he was feeling his wine, and his guard was down. “I guess with you it’s a question of business,” he told Chagall. “You won’t go unless there’s money in it.”

Francoise Gilot, who was at the table, says Chagall grinned at that remark but burned inside ever after. That was the end of the friendship.

Both those Titans had severe commercial temptations in old age. Each suspected or believed the other was a sinner.” –PabloPicasso.org

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