[b]Vitebsk hosts celebrations dedicated to 125th anniversary of Marc Chagall’s birth[/b]True art exists outside of time, as explored by Vitebsk painter Antonina Moiseeva’s Return of Marc Chagall. She portrayed the great artist on a white horse, as if upon a cloud. He flies through the sky from Paris to Vitebsk — his native city, which was dear to his heart. It symbolises the fusion of times and cultures… and was recently on show at the 4th National Insita-2012 Exhibition of Naпve Art in Vitebsk. The wonderful forum launched celebrations dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the birth of outstanding artist Marc Chagall.
Chagall and naпve art
Which is being celebrated in his home town of Vitebsk from July 6-7th. Of course, before then, various interesting events are planned for this landmark. Insita-2012 brought together almost 80 artists from Belarus, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania and the UK. Naпve art painters Maximov, Kondratyuk, Leonov and Kryuger brought canvases to Vitebsk; these ‘coryphaeuses’ (classical artists of the genre) were invited especially by the organisers of the exhibition. British Peter Hickson, an engineer and Cambridge graduate, paints well-known world figures (Portrait of Charlie Chaplin), as well as canvases which show his personal feelings, recollections and attempts to portray reality (Running Man, and Night and Day in the Height of Summer). He worked at a Belarusian enterprise in the 1980s and, over the course of time, became a self-educated painter. Of his canvases, he says, “A person should be sincere in what they depict, since our life isn’t nonsense and it’s so short. We should never forget that we are created by God.”
Marc Chagall would have agreed. While living in France, he dreamt of visiting his native Vitebsk, once more breathing the scent of his favourite cornflowers. In reality, he never returned. However, Margarita Saifugalieva’s Chagall, Hello from Vitebsk painting shows herself flying on the back of a fire-bird to Paris to find the great master, carrying a bouquet of cornflowers. Usually held by the Moscow State Museum of Naпve Art, the work is being displayed in Vitebsk on the eve of Chagall’s jubilee.
Chagall’s creativity is inseparable from that of naпve art. He borrowed much from those who initiated the genre, as Vladimir Grozin, Director of the Moscow State Museum of Naпve Art, explains. He tells us, “Chagall is one of the avant-garde painters who noted and assessed the advantages of primitivism. However, he didn’t belong to either of these trends, being unique. Most painters of this trend were also somehow ‘isolated’; they perceived the world in harmony — at odds with reality — which created much drama in their canvases.”
Mr. Grozin has visited Vitebsk many times for exhibitions: usually coinciding with the International Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk Arts Festival. Five years ago, with his Vitebsk colleagues, his museum released a catalogue dedicated to Chagall.
From archives and museum collections
Many foreign guests arriving in Vitebsk bring gifts connected with Chagall. For instance, Vladimir Ugarov, Deputy Director of the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad in Moscow, recently donated 300 books on history, philosophy and culture (in Russian) to Vitebsk State University Library. He has also brought copies of two letters from Chagall, addressed to theatre artist Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. The originals are kept in the archives of the House of Russia Abroad, having been donated by descendants of Russian йmigrйs living in Frankfurt-am-Mein. Mr. Ugarov believes that the letters will be of interest to students, as well as to historians and art experts. He adds, “In his letters, the young Chagall complains that the tsarist census is too complex and asks Dobuzhinsky to help him. Amazingly, the letters have never been published.”
The Apostolic Nuncio for Belarus, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, met the leadership of Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee in early April, mentioning his desire to organise an exhibition of original works by Marc Chagall in the Belarusian regional centre. “Works by the world famous master are kept in Germany, France and the Vatican, so we’d be pleased to assist in the organisation of such an exhibition.”
The Archbishop laid flowers at Chagall’s monument on behalf of the Pope of Rome and visited the Chagall House-Museum in Vitebsk, noting with satisfaction that Belarus has been hospitable towards various cultures and nations over the centuries.
Vitebsk awaits guests
The 22nd Chagall Readings, scheduled for June 9-10th, will be a major event celebrating Chagall’s 125th anniversary. It will be dedicated to the history of Vitebsk Art College, which opened in the city in 1918 at the instigation of Chagall himself — as Commissioner for Art in Vitebsk Province. Lyudmila Khmelnitskaya, Director of the Marc Chagall Museum, tells us that art experts from Belarus, Russia, Latvia, France and Germany have offered their assistance. On July 7th, the courtyard in Pokrovskaya Street will host a traditional theatrical holiday, entitled ‘At Marc and Bella’s’. Guests will be able to buy exclusive souvenirs and see painters, poets and musicians at work. The day before, a single picture will be unveiled at the Art Museum in Vitebsk: Chagall’s portrait by Yehuda Pen — Chagall’s first pupil. It currently resides at the National Art Museum of Belarus.
Chagall’s 125th anniversary is to be celebrated not only in Vitebsk but at the Tretyakov Gallery and at the Hermitage (where a conference dedicated to the master is planned).
By Sergey Gavrilin