Original lithographs and etchings by Marc Chagall will be on show at Chester Art Centre between 6 June and 11 July 2018.

The Russian-born painter and printmaker Marc Chagall (1887-1985) now has a deserved reputation as one of the 20th century’s best-loved artists. Born in Vitebsk, Russia, Chagall studied in St Petersburg before travelling to Paris where he became an influential young member of the avant-garde circle of artists establishing their careers in the heart of the French capital.

Enthralled by the many sights, sounds and colours of the Paris streets, in 1917 Chagall returned to his native Vitebsk to make use of his new experiences as Director and Commissar of Fine Art. However, his bright, colourful, fantasy-based work irked the conservative local authorities, so he left for Moscow to design for the new Jewish Theatre. Returning to Paris in 1923, he met the dealer and collector Ambroise Vollard, who would go on to commission and publish some of Chagall’s most important suites of prints in the following decade. Fear for his life as a Russian born Jew meant that between 1941-47 he moved between occupied France and the USA, eventually settling near Nice where he continued to paint and live out his final years.

Chagall was a prolific artist, his most cherished sources of imagery coming from memories of a Jewish childhood, Bible stories, and of the folklore from his early life in Russia. He died in 1985.

All lithographs, etchings available during the exhibition are original prints.  Mostly unsigned, some signed in plate, they were produced in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s with the artist’s supervision by renowned printers like Mourlot Freres in Paris.  All prints and posters are genuine and some have an accompanying  justification page if part of a particular suite. Should a customer be doubtful we can provide a certificate of authenticity.

Some of the work that will be available during the exhibition at Chester Art Centre:

La Fables de la Fontaine from one of just 85 sets of the suite hand-coloured by Chagall.

By the late 1920s, Ambroise Vollard – publisher and defender of avant-garde artists – had become one of the most famous figures in the contemporary art world. Vollard commissioned Chagall’s etchings to accompany the text of La Fontaine’s Fables, but his personal advocacy for the artist – who was both a ‘romantic’ and a Jew – came under debate in the Chamber of Deputies. When asked Why Chagall? Vollard’s response was simple: Because his aesthetic seems to me in a certain sense akin to La Fontaine’s, at once sound and delicate, realistic and fantastic.

Chagall began by painting preparatory gouaches which were to be translated to the etching plates for printing. Realising that even the master printers charged with the task could not match the gradations of colour he desired, Chagall elected to prepare the plates himself. A celebrated series which embodies the humility that is so typical of his work, Chagall’s etchings for the Fables were issued in 1952 in an edition of just 200, with 85 special sets which were hand-painted by Chagall himself.

The Twelve Tribes lithographs after Chagall based on preliminary sketches for the Jerusalem stained-glass

In 1959 Chagall was commissioned to design twelve stained glass windows for the new synagogue of the Hadassah- Hebrew University Medical Centre, situated in the Judean hills west of Jerusalem.

The number twelve is considered spiritual and sacred. These magnificent windows symbolize the twelve sons of Jacob from whom sprang the twelve tribes of Israel. Keen that his designs be more widely disseminated, Chagall was closely involved with the production of the set of lithographs based upon his studies, created by the world famous Mourlot Frères of Paris: the publisher, James Parton, recalled how the artist stood beside the lithographer to watch the single sheets pass through the hand-fed stone press, one colour at a time . . . to catch every nuance of shading. [He] threw out the whole first set of gravure plates: the yellow, he felt, was off a shade.

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