Cry of Freedom: Chagall and Politics
Exhibition from 7 October 2023 to 7 January 2024
Over the course of a lifetime shaped by two wars and one period of exile, Marc Chagall spearheaded a body of work that is deeply rooted in the history of the 20th century. Like the displaced migrants depicted in his works, the artist travelled the world tossed about by the raging winds of the century, from his childhood in Russia to France, via Germany, the United States and on to Mexico, before settling in the Mediterranean. His art, imbued with a deep-rooted humanism, and nourished by his Jewish roots and by being attentive to the cultures he encountered and his lived experiences, conveys an unfailing commitment to people and their rights, to equality and tolerance between beings. Elevated by a cry of freedom, his art confronts the eye with the wars faced and artistic battles fought. It is transcended by a poetic force and imaginary vision, bringing together the pictorial language of derision and humour rooted in the Jewish culture. The pencil and brush become weapons of peace for the painter, reflecting the struggles of the “20th century forged in fire (1)”, whose “words and [the] echoes cling in the air and become petrified, bloody flesh on the sheets of snow (2)”. In this way, the drawings and paintings reveal the unconditional idealism of the “painter as a witness to (his) time (3)”, his unshakeable faith in harmony and universal peace between men, thereby creating viewpoints and intertwining conversations on the chapter of history that is currently being written.
The spectacular exhibition presents the artist’s work in the light of the historical events that he witnessed and in which he participated. Consequently, this is the first time that all of his work is being presented from the viewpoint of his opinions and engagement. Cry of freedom is a co-production with the MAPFRE Foundation in Madrid and the Marc Chagall National Museum in Nice, curated by Ambre Gauthier and Meret Meyer. Chagall politique benefits from the backing of the Ida Chagall and Michel Brodsky Indivisions, and numerous prestigious loans from France and other countries, creating additional opportunities to discover a wide range of unpublished documents from the archives of the artist, selected during the research conducted for the exhibition.
This is the fourth time that Chagall has been hosted by La Piscine as part of its ongoing review of this key figure of modernity, who was committed and attentive to the time that shaped him and that he influenced with his message as a painter and humanist.
(1) – Peretz Markish, Khaliastra, the gang, Lachenal & Ritter, 1989, p. 11.
(2) – Ibidem.
(3) – Painters, witnesses of their time, Musée Galliera, Paris, 17 January – 17 March 1963.
Ambre Gauthier, doctor in art history, manager of the catalogue raisonné and Marc Chagall archives
Meret Meyer, co-president of the Marc Chagall Committee and granddaughter of the artist.
Designer: Cédric Guerlus / Going Design
Catalogue published to coincide with the exhibition (Gallimard)
This exhibition was supported by the regional cultural affairs office (DRAC Hauts-de-France) and Lille European Metropolis. It is generously backed by the “Société des Amis” (society of friends) of the museum and by the Cercle des Entreprises Patrons de La Piscine (circle of business patrons of La Piscine). It has benefited from exceptional patronage from CIC Nord Ouest, a loyal partner of the La Piscine museum. The design was made possible thanks to generous support from the paints distributed by Tollens.
Key: Marc Chagall (1887–1985), Over Vitebsk, 1922. Oil on canvas. 73 x 91 cm. Kunsthaus Zürich, donation from the Union Reinsurance Company, 1973 © ADAGP, Paris, 2023