We're delighted to present our 2022 Summer Exhibition which features original etchings, lithographs and posters spanning the remarkable career of Marc Chagall, one of the twentieth century's most esteemed artists.
Chagall was born in Vitebsk, Russia in 1887. After studying in St Petersburg he went to Paris where he befriended the avant-garde circle of artists. In 1917 he returned to his native Vitebsk where he was made Director and Commissar of Fine Art. However, his fantasy-based work irked the conservative authorities so he left for Moscow to design for the new Jewish Theatre.Returning to Paris in 1923 he met the art-dealer Vollard for whom he illustrated Gogol’s Dead Souls and the Fables of La Fontaine. Between 1941-47 he moved between occupied France and the USA, eventually settling near Nice. Chagall was a prolific artist, his work reminiscent of Jewish life, bible stories and of the folklore from his early years in Russia. He died in 1985.
Enchantingly poetic, Marc Chagall's Fables are among the very best illustrations of La Fontaine's moral tales.
Published in 1952, the naive imagery and extraordinary breadth of tones achieved in each etching convey the simple power of La Fontaine's text, a mixture of cautionary allegories from the ancient Greek fabulist Aesop and La Fontaine's own invented fables.
Widely regarded as one of the great print suites of the 20th century, Chagall's Fables etchings were finally published in 1952 in an edition of just 200, with 85 special sets which were hand-painted by Chagall himself (pictured above). An enduring series which embodies the humanity and the humility that is so typical of his work, the Fables remain one of Chagall’s – and indeed Vollard’s – most treasured endeavours.
Almost 10 years in the making, and comprising over 100 etchings, it was the third of Chagall’s etching suites to be commissioned by the great publisher Ambroise Vollard. Chagall’s Jewish identity had always informed his work; in this major suite, begun in 1930, it was to take centre stage.
The final 105 etchings, characterised by an exquisite interweaving of lines hatched, scratched, and scored, are thought to be Chagall’s greatest and most personal work as a printmaker. ‘If we had nothing of Chagall but his bible,’ wrote Meyer Schapiro, writer and close friend, ‘he would be for us a great modern artist.’
Charles Sorlier, lithographer-in-chief at the esteemed Mourlot Frères atelier, first taught Chagall the lithographic process in the early 1950s. Having produced numerous etchings across the 1920s and ‘30s, Chagall was already a naturally dexterous printmaker, but in lithography he found a rejuvenating lease of life: ‘When I held in my hand a lithographic stone…I believed I was touching a talisman. It seemed to me that I could entrust them with all my joys, all my sorrows…It is possible to draw well and yet not possess in one’s fingers the lithographic touch; this is a matter of feeling.’
We also have original posters, etchings from Gogol's Dead Souls and The Seven Deadly Sins and lithographs from The Odyssey of Homer and The Jerusalem Windows.