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...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs 10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    10 New Hollywood Movies That Aim to Show Support for Israel (SATIRE)

    Ten major film studios are currently in production on projects that promote a decidedly pro-Israeli narrative. In famously liberal Hollywood, such a development has left mouths agape and set tongues a wagging. Since the Jewish State began defending itself from the thousands of rockets that Hamas has hurled at it – as well as ongoing terror attacks and murders, the overwhelming number of Tinseltown’s producers, directors, actors, and studio moguls have remained indifferent to the plight of millions of Israeli [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Israel Sports So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    So Close: Israeli Judoka Loses Crown in World Cup Final, Finishes With Silver (VIDEO)

    Israeli Judoka Yarden Gerbi (63kg), 25, of Netanya, on Thursday lost the final round at the Judo World Cup, and her world title to Clarisse Agbegnenou of France, at a match held in Russia. “I have mixed feelings,” Gerbi told Israeli Army radio. But, “I shouldn’t assume that I’d win the world Judo championship twice in a row,” she admitted. Gerbi won gold in Rio De Janeiro last year. “When I made my decision, I knew it was going to [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    Surviving the Holocaust by Hiding Their Faith (REVIEW)

    “Jews Out!” was just the name of a child’s game that three little girls played in World War II Europe. But all is not as it seems because the three girls were Jewish, but hiding their true identities. In award-winning author R. D. Rosen’s riveting non-fiction work, Such Good Girls, “Jews Out!” wasn’t a game; it was a struggle for survival. The girls, Sophie, Flora, and Carla, grew up at a time and a place that did not allow them [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    Twenty Years On, the Real and Radical Legacy of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

    JNS.org – “He was part hippie, part yippie, part beatnik, and part New Age,” wrote Elli Wohlgelernter in a Jerusalem Post eulogy in 1994, following the Oct. 20 passing of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. Twenty years later, more robust accounts of Carlebach’s life have come to the surface. Earlier this year, Natan Ophir published the book Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission & Legacy. This past summer, Rabbi Shlomo Katz’s The Soul of Jerusalem hit the shelves. But even the authors will admit [...]

    Read 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 morale 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 [...]

    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 →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.