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...

  • 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 →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.