Marc Chagall

Went to see Marc Chagall exhibit (1, 2) at SFMOMA today. It was a zoo. The crowd situation was reminiscent of Ansel Adams 100 we’ve seen in 2001. We bypassed the first long line waiting to buy a ticket by waving my memebership card, but there was a second line await us outside the 5th floor exhibit room. Once inside, we had to negotiate our way in and out of the crowd in order to read every bulletin board, or to exam every piece of painting.

But it is worth it. I love his indigo blue, his lush dark green, and his crimson red all splashed carefully within one canvas. I love his soft coloring, the compartments he drew for different sections within one painting. I love watching his soaring imagination flew over a spread of peaceful Russian village laid out like doll houses surounded by rolling green or deep blue evening sky. The tiny houses, the shiny church with onion doom, the grazing donky, and of course the young couple that were so oblivious to the rest of the world. Everything was drawn with so much care and tenderness. In any of his pictures, there is no minor subject. Often his small figures are more intricate than the dominate ones.

I first learned of Chagall from a movie The Notting Hill(1999), when Juliet Robert’s character commented on a painting in the living room of Hugh Grant’s character, “…that’s how I think love is, floating in all that vast deep and sad blue…” I started search every reprint shop for that “love floating in all that vast and sad blue”. That summer, we were in Nice for a friend’s wedding¡£ I paid a visit to Chagall museum there. Instead of that vast deep blue, I found plenty vast deep red. In addition, the Chagall Museum at Nice featured some beautiful stained glass designed by him as well as his illustrations for the Bible.

In 2001, a gallery in SF was showing a large series of Chagall’s drawings. I still remember that chilly grey Feburary morning as Gui, Matthew, Alice and I climbed up the hilly street to arrive at the gallery right by Union Square. By then I already forgot what that “love floating in vast blue” painting looks like. Is it this, this, or this? It no longer seems to matter, I came to look for a stone, but I’ve found a world instead. My favorite ones are this, this, and a few that I can’t find images on line: Le Calvaire, La Noce (a wedding procession in his hometown Vitsyebsk, Russia, Paris par la Fenetre (Paris outside of my window?), Le Miroir (The Mirror, where a small figure was praying on the lower left corner while the entire picture was filled by a huge mirror that held an image of a lamp. I’ve never seen this picture until today. Now I can’t get this image out of my mind). This site has by far the most complete Chagall collection on line (just go to paintings and then select the painting’s name from the right).

2 thoughts on “Marc Chagall

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  2. Gui and I were just discussing why Chagall is so popular. Our conclusion was his paintins are 1) pretty and decorative, so in general it appeals to ordinary people 2)symbolic enough to qualify it as modern, so it also appeals to the intellectuals who are always looking for deeper meaning.

    Talking about modern painting, I think most of them are ugly. There was another exhibit we ran across at the museum, and both Gui and I couldn’t stand it. Bad coloring, bad composition, and tasteless subject matter. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why paintings like that deserve to be shown! 🙁 That’s my view of most modern paintings.

    My sister however argues that art doesn’t have to be beautiful.

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