I love these words by Roland Doschka, from the book Marc Chagall: Ceramic Masterpieces (Prestel Publishing, September 2003). They truly describe the craftsperson and technician Chagall was.
“Chagall was a superb draughtsman even though in his technique he did not revolutionize drawing in the way Matisse or Picasso did. Chagall, however, drew all his life. Pivotal to his impressive and lyrical oeuvre was the fact that he made no distinction between different forms of art in terms of their respective importance. There was no hierarchy in the arts for Chagall; he gave a poster the same level of attention as a painting. He was also a natural technician and produced outstanding lithographs, etchings and stained glass, ceramics and sculptures, stage sets and designs. He was described as being in love with his trade.”
The Blue Circus & The Dance (1950-1952)
Commissioned along with The Dance (1950-1952) to decorate the new auditorium of the Watergate Theatre in London, The Blue Circus is an emblematic work in typical Chagall form. “The theme of the circus, metaphor of the world, is associated with the Mediterranean, in terms of atmosphere and colour, as well as its mermaid iconography, in this composition in which a trapeze artist balances above a green horse with human eyes, the artist’s double in animal form. A fish, similar to the one found on the designs for the scenery for Daphnis and Chloe and on the ceramics that date from the same time, offers a bouquet to the trapeze artist. The colour blue, in navy and indigo tones, imposes its nocturnal presence on the whole surface of the painting lit up by a violinist-moon.” – Art History News – Chagall: Colour & Music.
Picasso first visited the Madoura pottery in Vallauris in the South of France in 1946. Therafter he returned every year, making over 4000 vases, plates, pitchers and other forms, hundreds of which were turned into edition pieces. Edition Picasso ceramics were made in multiples from 25 to 500.
Chagall also painted and sculpted clay at the Madoura Pottery in Vallauris, France, in the 1950s. Of his total creative career only about 15 years were devoted to ceramics and sculpture. None of Chagall’s work was made into editions, however. Chagall ceramics are extremely rare — limited to just a few hundred pieces throughout the world, most of which are in museums or belong to the Chagall family.
“Sculpture and ceramics are in complete harmony with the artist’s will. There is no intermediary between the artist’s hands and his material, and Chagall, unlike most artists, was not content with decorating pieces made by professional potters. He himself moulded his clay and created original forms, thus becoming — unusually — a painter sculpting in ceramic. Chagall’s profound originality is here expressed in his material.” – From Marc Chagall: Ceramic Masterpieces, Edited by Roland Doschka.
Chagall discovered the practice of sculpture in 1950 when he moved to Vence, on the Côte d’Azur. The artist’s first foray into volume was modelling clay, creating ceramics in various different workshops around the region, including the Madoura studio in Vallauris.
Windows – Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Centre
In 1959 Chagall collaborated with master glassmakers to create twelve stunning stained-glass windows for the Hadassah-Hebrew University Medical Centre in Jerusalem. Each window is a different colour, and each represents one of the twelve tribes of Israel. “This is my modest gift to the Jewish people who have always dreamt of biblical love, friendship and of peace among all peoples.”
Marc Chagall once said that “the dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.”
One of the most outstanding example of Chagall’s love of music, is this magnificent circular painting in the Opéra de Paris. It is rhythmically organized by the arrangement of the panels of colour. Chagall chose to depict key works by his fourteen favourite composers, and conceived of the circular decoration as a flower with five petals, each of a different colour. Each petal is associated with two composers: white for Rameau and Debussy, red for Ravel and Stravinsky, yellow for Tchaikovsky and Adam, blue for Mussorgsky and Mozart, and green for Wagner and Berlioz.
The centre of the flower, painted later, is a sun celebrating Beethoven, Gluck, Bizet and Verdi. Chagall reinterpreted the pieces he knew so well by allowing his own poetry free rein. For Gluck’s opera Orpheus and Eurydice, for example, the absent Orpheus is represented by his lyre, and it is an angel out of a Quattrocento Annunciation that comes to meet Eurydice, its arms full of flowers, to the music of the Dance of the Blessed Spirits. The subject of love, found all over the ceiling, culminates in the Tristan and Isolde panel, a variation on the theme of the couple, which, as if by way of Wagnerian modulations, takes us to Romeo and Juliet and the dreamlike depiction of an antique medallion.
The Sources of Music and The Triumph of Music – two panels created by Chagall for Lincoln Centre, home of the Metropolitan Opera – form a diptych on the theme of musical creation.
The Sources of Music, the predominantly yellow right panel, depicts a theatrical King David in double profile, playing the harp in the centre of a serene composition populated with musicians, animals and angels that recalls the sets Chagall created about that time for the opera The Magic Flute. Orpheus occupies the lower part of the composition, counterbalancing David’s movement and initiating a leftward thrust that symbolizes transition and metamorphosis.
Windows of the Metz Cathedral, Metz, France
Peace Window, UN
The 51-foot wide, 12-foot high “Peace Window” at the United Nations was dedicated in 1964 as a memorial to Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. Hammarskjöld died with 15 others in a 1961 plane crash in Ndola, Zambia. Chagall designed the window to include tributes to Hammarskjöld, such as music symbols referencing his favourite symphony (Beethoven’s Ninth), along with swirling figures representing peace and love against an iridescent blue background.
Mosaic Wall at Washington Mall
Mosaic wall in Washington, USA is seventeen by ten foot wall standing in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Evelyn Stephansson Nef, who died in 2009, donated it to the museum.
Marc Chagall did the drawings for the composition in his studio in France, and then hired mosaicist Lino Melano to complete it. Melano supervised installation which was finished in November, 1971. The artist returned at the time to see it. It was his first mosaic installed in the USA. Afterwards, Chagall did the renowned Four Seasons for the First National Plaza in Chicago.
Covenant Odyssey – Mosaic (detail)
Location: Faculty of Law and Economic Sciences, University of Nice, France
Four Seasons Mosaic, Chicago
Four Seasons is a mosaic by Marc Chagall that is located in Chase Tower Plaza in the Loop district of Chicago, Illinois. The mosaic was a gift to the City of Chicago by Frederick H. Prince (via the Prince Charitable Trusts). The mosaic is wrapped around four sides of an impressively large (seventy foot long, ten foot wide and fourteen foot high) rectangular box, and was dedicated in September 1974. The work was renovated in 1994 and a protective glass canopy installed for protection.
Art Institute of Chicago
Photo Credit: Peter Lucas via Wikimedia Commons.
Museo Nazionale Marc Chagall (Marc Chagall National Museum)
In the early 1960s, Marc Chagall had several of his designs reproduced as tapestries. He designed three tapestries for the Great Hall of the Knesset (Isreali Parliament) and one for the Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall. These tapestries were manufactured by Gobelins studios in France.
In 1964, Chagall met Belgian born artist Yvette Cauquil-Prince. The two artists immediately began collaborating on large-scale tapestries. Together they produced twenty nine tapestries over a twenty year period.
Cauquil-Prince produced more than eighty tapestries for many major twentieth-century artists. She produced tapestries for Alexander Calder, Georges Braque, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Roberto Matta, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Paul Klee and Pablo Picasso in her Paris studio.
Central to the Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s collection is the fourteen foot by nineteen foot Chagall Tapestry. In 1972, Chagall produced a gouache for The Prophet Jeremiah. Yvette Cauquil-Prince translated this water colour painting into a cartoon (or full-scale rendering) on the warp threads of a loom. The tapestry was manufactured by Turkish and Moroccan weavers. It took them eight months to produce the piece, which became the first one large scale Chagall piece in the United States.
In 1953 president of Fuller Fabrics Dan Fuller, invited five of the 20th century’s most distinguished artists: Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Raoul Dufy, to collaborate on a line of textiles. The line was to be called the Modern Master Series.
Fuller worked with each artist to select motifs from their existing body of work, which were then translated by the company’s in house designers into repeating patterns. Fidelity of reproduction was essential, and Fuller’s designers worked diligently to render the motifs accurately for engraving.
The patterns were roller printed, incised by photographic process. The cotton fabric was intended to be mass produced and sold at low cost to consumers. Each artist approved the final patterns derived from his work and was personally involved in the selection of the colours.
Choir of St Stephan (St. Stephan zu Mainz) Germany
Chagall created nine choir window created for the Saint Stephan Church in Mainz between 1978 and his death in 1985. The figures depict scenes from the Old Testament and were designed to show the commonalities between Christian and Jewish traditions. Chagall expressly intended this work to be a contribution to Jewish-German reconciliation. Remember Chagall himself had fled France under Nazi occupation.
The Chagall choir windows in St. Stephan are unique in Germany. St. Stephan’s was chosen for this work due to Chagall’s friendship with Monsignor Klaus Mayer, who was then the presiding priest. His work for St Stephan was continued post mortem by his pupil Charles Marq and others.