Art market Magazine June 2013

 
THE MAGAZINE 
 
THE IMAGINARY INTERVIEW 
 
HD 
 
Marc…
THE MAGAZINE

THE IMAGINARY INTERVIEW

HD

Marc Chagall painting, 1938-1944.

© Archives of Marc and Ida Chagall, Paris © Adagp, Paris 2013/Chagall®

106

GAZETTE
DROUOT INTERNATIONAL I N° 26


THE IMAGINARY INTERVIEW

THE MAGAZINE

Marc Chagall the pilgrim of dreams
Saint-Paul de Vence, 1984. We are greeted by a man with a merry look in his eye. His retrospective
at Beaubourg is opening the next day. What a lot of ground you have covered since your childhood in Vitebsk! Oh, indeed! Ever since I was born, I have felt I was on a journey between two worlds. My life in Vitebsk was pretty peaceful, between the synagogue, a corner by the stove and work. My family was not rolling in money, as they say. My father was a humble worker in a herring factory. I discovered drawing in the village school. And then, when I was 20, I went to Saint Petersburg to study art. There, were they already talking about the movements that were going to revolutionise painting in the West? I should say! In Saint Petersburg, we heard about everything that was happening in France. I liked a certain Matisse, who was beginning to be talked about a lot. At that time, he had marvellous impulses of naiveté that really appealed to me. All this frenzy really motivated me, and despite myself, I became a proud young artist, rather princely – even a little contemptuous. But what do you expect? If you don't aim high, you won't get high! And the contrast was too strong between my life of poverty as a child and this tempting liberty I was beginning to sense in the city of the Tsars. (Hesitantly) I had a passionate desire for fame! And our teacher, Leon Bakst, really inspired us with his stage designs, admired by the whole of Paris.

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Would you say this was a turning point? I've had endless turning points - enough to unhinge me more than once! (Laughs) If you are relatively bright, you quickly realise the limits of your environment. And in my case, only Paris could provide the answers. Many of my compatriots had found refuge there. Thanks to the explosion of Diaghilev's "Ballets", Russia was very popular in France! So when did you finally get to Paris? In 1910, a year after Bakst. After four days on the train, I was helped by some Russians in Paris. And I set up my first studio in Montmartre, in a compatriot's apartment. Of course, I was very homesick to begin with. It was only the huge distance between Paris and Vitebsk that stopped me from going back immediately. (Rubbing his temples). The only way out of that sort of situation is to throw yourself into your work, body and soul! In the end, a few visits to the Louvre soon cured me of my doubts. And the bubbling Paris scene as well, surely? It wasn't quite that simple. To start with, I experienced quite a bit of frustration. My palette was still dark, almost lifeless – when inside, I was longing to join in the general excitement. It's hard to get onto a moving train, especially that of Cubism! Little by little, I timidly began to borrow a few ideas from this off-key movement. And so from Braque and Picasso. No, more from Robert Delaunay and his wife Sonia (also Russian: Ed.). I was never very keen on defragmentation. For me, Cubism was above all a certain magic in the world and a language that spoke of the secret life of

N° 26 I GAZETTE DROUOT INTERNATIONAL

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