Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exhibition: Chagall Illustrations for Gogol's Dead Souls at Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Marc Chagall, Illustrations for Gogol's Dead Souls. Photos: Courtesy of Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Exhibition: Chagall Illustrations for Gogol's Dead Souls at Tel Aviv Museum of Art (ISJM) Art Knowledge News reports on a current exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art of etchings by Marc Chagall illustrating Gogol's Dead Souls. The collections was given by Chagall to the Museum when he visited Tel Aviv during his visit to Tel Aviv in the 1931, where he had been invited by Mayor Meir Dizengoff, who had met Chagall in Paris the previous year. Chagall had joined the Paris Committee to promote the new art museum in Tel Aviv which opened the following year. At the time Tel Aviv was a quickly growing city establishing itself through art and architecture as a world capital of modern art and design.

Marc Chagall's Illustrations for Gogol's "Dead Souls" at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art

At the center of Gogol's "Human Comedy" Dead Souls is the character of Chichikov, a charming, shrewd scoundrel, who buys from landowners dead serfs whose names have not yet been taken off the official census, that is, the "dead souls" that must be disposed of in order to avoid paying serf tax for them. Chichikov intends to present these souls as living persons, "deposit" them as collateral against a bank loan, settle in a far province and establish himself as a respectable country gentleman. Through Chichikov's journey the reader is exposed to Russia's people and social classes: the lazy, greedy landowners; the power-hungry, honor-craving bureaucrats; the destitute serfs who are nothing but their masters' chattel – in life as well as after death. They are all described by Gogol – and illustrated by Chagall – with exaggeration, as a larger-than-life yet compassionate grotesquerie.

Gogol wrote Dead Souls, a penetrating yet affectionate novel, in 1842 while far from Russia, in Rome, and that Chagall, too, made his witty prints when he was far from Russia, in Paris. The satirical prints are characterized by an acerbity that at times verges on cruelty, and are reminiscent of the work of expressionist artist Georg Grosz, whom Chagall had known in Berlin. Distorted, diagonal scenes and a top angle view evoke a sense of movement and instability. This arrangement of form and space, so typical of Chagall, appears in this series for the first time.

From 18 January 2010 Grotesque, exaggerated figures that are more than slightly critical of 19th century Russian society, with its characteristic corruption and bureaucracy.

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel's main art museum, first opened to the public in 1932 in the home of Tel Aviv's first mayor, Meir Dizengoff. The Museum quickly became the cultural center of the Tel Aviv, presenting local and foreign artists.
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1 comment:

Mott said...

I had no idea about Chagall's relationship with the Museum when he visited Tel Aviv during his visit to Tel Aviv in the 1931. Nor did I know that Chagall had been invited by the big man, Meir Dizengoff himself. We have visited the museum often, but I cannot recall any plaque or document that discusses Chagall, the Paris Committee and the new art museum in Tel Aviv.