Chasing Chagall’s Legacy in France

July 16, 2013 7:58 am 0 comments

Marc Chagall's "The Fiddler." Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgOriginally published by www.Jewish.Travelthe new online travel magazine.

The abundance of Marc Chagall’s work in New York City, where I live, inspired me to see more of his genius abroad. So I headed to France on my very own Chagall trail.

Here in New York, Chagall’s work is readily accessible at the Metropolitan Opera House, at the Museum of Modern Art, and at galleries and at the Jewish Museum. Just 30 miles outside the city there are nine of his stained glass windows in the Union Church in Pocantico Hills. And there is great excitement for the exhibit “Chagall: Love, War and Exile,” which opens at the Jewish Museum of New York in September.

Energized by all of this, in April I organized a Chagall-centric itinerary from Paris to Nice, and viewed paintings, stage sets, etchings, mosaics, stained-glass windows, lithographs and murals in numerous venues.

Art historians label the Belarus-born artist’s work Cubism, Symbolism and Fauvism; some speak of Expressionism. I think of color and sensitivity, as much for suffering as for love.

Observing his life’s endeavor added to my understanding of 20th-century Jewish life as much as to my personal pleasure.

In Paris, le Palais Garnier, the Opera House, is home to a glittering gold and red Chagall ceiling and the Museum of Jewish Art, in Montmartre, displays a selection of lithographs. The Centre Pompidou displays dozens of works from his youth in Vitebsk, where he was born in 1887, through the 1960s in the south of France, where he died in 1985. This national museum is in the fourth arrondissement near the Marais, the now-trendy neighborhood that was once home to the largest Jewish population in Europe. Its narrow, cobblestone alleyways, distinctive architecture and synagogues retain a strong Jewish presence, and on rue de Rosier kosher restaurants serve everything from fine steaks to falafels.

From the Centre Pompidou’s rooftop terrace, there’s a clear view of Notre Dame. One of two female figures on the façade, Synagoga, represents Judaism as symbolized by the broken tablets with the Ten Commandments. Behind Notre Dame, where the Ile de la Cite comes to a point in the Seine River, the moving Memorial de la Deportation is dedicated to the 200,000 deported during World War Two.

To see more art, I traveled to Nice by train, taking the high-speed TGV that glides between metropolitan areas at about 200 miles per hour, and stopped at Lyon and Marseille.

I explored Marseille—European Capital of Culture 2013 and home to a large Jewish community—by bus, before heading 19 miles north to Aix-en-Provence to see the Atelier Cezanne, Musée Granet and Fondation Vasarely. From Marseille’s new Gare St Charles, the TGV to Nice takes two-and-a-half hours along the scenic coast (reserved seats on the upper level facing the destination have the best view).

Nice is home to a vibrant Jewish community and The Musée National Marc Chagall with the most splendid and comprehensive of all Chagall collections. It stars 17 biblical paintings, brightly colored canvases dedicated to his wife, sculptures, brilliant stained-glass windows, mosaics, tapestries, sketches, prints and lithographs. It’s an emotionally powerful visit, and though the glorious Matisse museum is in the same Cimiez hillsides, I recommend that, if at all possible, visitors don’t try to cram both into the same day.

It takes about a half hour to drive up the hillside from Nice to reach Saint Paul de Vence, where Chagall chose to spend his last years. Across from the ancient walled fortification, a tourist Mecca with narrow, cobblestone pedestrian streets is the sprawling Fondation Maeght. Chagall mosaics decorate the architecturally stunning, park-like spot, as does work by Calder, Giacometti, Modigliani and Miró. La Chapelle de la Rosaire, an incredible jewel better known as the Matisse Chapel, is just three miles up the mountain in Vence.

Chagall is not the only artist who makes my spirit soar and I also visited the Musée d’Orsay and l’Orangerie, in Paris, to the Musée de l’Annonciade (Saint Tropez), to Musée Matisse and Musée Picasso (Antibes) on this trip. Yet, no others compare to him for his love of color, life, relationships and, primarily, for his love of his Jewish heritage.

Irvina Lew, a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Society of American Travel Writers, writes about France, art and history. Follow her work at www.irvinalew.com.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Music Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    Beatlemania Invades the Gaza Strip (SATIRE)

    As Hamas loses its grip on power in the Gaza Strip as a result of war, poverty and disillusionment, the Islamist terrorist group has developed an ingenious way to raise the moral of the 1.7 million Palestinian Arabs it was elected to serve. While currently focused on delivering a rocket into every Israeli home, Hamas has not left its own people behind. To gently wipe away the tears of children strategically placed inside kindergartens as human shields, the Hamas Interior Ministry has [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.