Marc Chagall, the storyteller


Marc Chagall, Florence Maeght's guestbook, 1969.

What seduced Aimé in the works of Chagall? His marvelous look, the telescoping of images and cultures? His singular and audacious vision? His flying animals, his drinking soldiers? All of this, no doubt, and the man, the inexhaustible storyteller, his enthusiasm and authenticity. "When I got to know the man, I understood that he was a great painter" he said. Their meeting took place in New York, during the first trip of the young dealer, in 1947. Then Aimé went to find him in France, in a small village, in Chambourcy, opposite another great painter, André Derain, to take him under contract. He is seduced by the green and pink cat that licks a face upside down, by oblique houses with red roofs, by aerial horses that eat turnips, by a giant rooster, by the bottom that merges with the top, by the near and the far that are juxtaposed, by the space where everything seems to float...

Marc Chagall, Lovers in the moonlight, 1952, gouache on paper, 65 x55 cm

Aimé understands that in Chagall's paintings, there is neither disorder nor system, but that behind all these crazy images is hidden a subtle man beyond all anecdotes. He finds, without doubt, his share of irrationality.

"A painting is a surface covered with representations of things (objects, animals, human forms) in a certain order, in which logic and illustration have no importance" explains the painter.


Marc Chagall in his studio painting Life for the Maeght Foundation.

Throughout his life the artist will tell stories, narratives, related to his own history and that of his people. Stories from the Old Testament, but also stories that unravel, that intersect, mingle. It is impossible to dissociate Chagall from his roots, his youth in Vitebsk and his education within the community of Hasidim, fervent Jews. Thus, we find in his paintings a style of narrative used by the rabbis, which refuses any heavy theory, but combines mystical fervor and humor.

Marc Chagall, The Yellow Sun, 1958, oil on canvas, 97x130 cm.

In April 1950, Marc Chagall's first exhibition, at the Maeght Gallery, brought together a collection of his various modes of expression, paintings, washes, gouaches, engravings and ceramics. On this occasion, he executed his first lithographic poster in the Mourlot workshops. That year, the painter moved to Vence, then in 1966, to Saint-Paul, on the same hill as the Maeghts.


Aimé Maeght, Marc and Vava Chagall, Paris, 1962.

The daughters of Adrien and Paule often pass by on their bicycles to see him. He tells them, like tales, the Bible. The Maeghts and Chagall had many common friends, including André Malraux, who commissioned him in 1964 to decorate the dome of the ceiling of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. For the official inauguration, where the political and artistic world is crowded, Aimé Maeght chose Isabelle, 9 years old, on his arm.

Joan Miró and Marc Chagall at a vernissage at the Maeght Gallery.

On July 7, 1973, the day of his 86th birthday, still with his friend André Malraux, he inaugurated the National Museum Message Biblical Marc Chagall, in Nice. In 1976, he illustrates fifteen etchings "And on the earth" of Malraux which appears, Maeght Edition, a few weeks after the death of the writer. The Gallery and the Maeght Foundation, will regularly celebrate the artist through retrospectives, exhibitions and editions.
 
Speech by Marc Chagall on the occasion of the presentation of the Legion of Honor to Aimé Maeght, September 28, 1964. right Marc Chagall at the Maeght Foundation, 1978

"Painting. A man spent his life painting. And when I say his life, I mean well. The rest is gesticulation. Painting is his life. What does he paint? Fruits, flowers, the entrance of a king in a city? All that is explained is something other than life. Than his life. His life is painting. Inexplicably. To paint or to speak perhaps: he sees as one hears. The things painted on the canvas in the way of feigned sentences. The words follow one another. Everything makes sentence after all, there is no need to understand: is that music, then why painting?" Louis Aragon, Derrière Le Miroir, 1972

Marc Chagall in his Paris studio, quai de l'Horloge, 1968.