Come May 7 Bonhams Madison Avenue will auction off several Impressionist & Modern Art works heralded as an examination of the legacy of World War II and its devastation on artists in Europe.
One may wonder, then, why the art of Gustav Klimthttp://tapeunit.com/article/the-presumed-porn-of-expressionist-gustave-klimt is included since he died some thirty five years before WWII. One may also wonder why Chagall is included. He escaped war-torn Europe in 1941 and moved to the U.S., thanks to the aid of art collector Peggy Guggehheim. What’s more, his auction house example, “Les amoureux aux fruits ou Deux têtes,” was painted nearly a decade after his arrival in the US.
In reality, Chagall’s work was conceived far from the horrors of war. It came out of his Russian peasant background and his dreams of yesterday there.
“The Poet Reading” describes a figure lying in grass. A background of a simple house and farm animals gives the impression that the figure is recalling the past.
“Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers” again presents a cherished childhood memory. This one features a log cabin with strolling musicians in the background and the artist at his easel in the foreground.
The artist’s overall celebration of life is unmistakable in “Double Portrait with Wine Glass” in which he sits triumphantly on the shoulders of his smiling wife, who is dressed in bridal white.
Chagall’s own words tell his story and war doesn’t enter into any of them:
“The fact that I made use of cows, milkmaids, roosters, and provincial Russian architecture as my source forms is because they are part of the environment from which I spring and which undoubtedly left the deepest impression on my visual memory of any experiences I have known…The vital mark these early influences leave is, as it were, on the handwriting of the artist.”
Even the poet Frederic Prokosch’s view of Chagall as a man with “playful joy in his eyes… a child playing with pebbles on the shore of an ancient and undulating sea…” tells you his mind was not on war.