The exhibition Chagall at work brings together an ensemble of works that joined the collection in 2022 thanks to the generosity of Bella and Meret Meyer. One hundred and twenty-seven drawings, five ceramics and seven sculptures by Marc Chagall enrich the collection of the Centre Pompidou, one of the most representative and extensive collections on the artist’s work, particularly his pre-war work
Fig. above: Credits, © Adagp, Paris, Photo credits : Philippe Migeat – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist. RMN-GP, Image reference : 4R11022 [1993 CX 0489], Image presentation: l’Agence Photo de la RMN
The donations are arranged according to three themes: Preparatory drawings for the costumes and stage curtains of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird, which was revived by the New York Ballet Theatre in 1945; sketches and models for the ceiling decoration commissioned from the artist in 1962; and an ensemble of ceramics, collages and sculptures created between the 1950s and the early 1970s.
Music plays a fundamental role in Chagall’s work: it is closely linked to his vocation as an artist – it appears in his autobiographical narrative Ma vie – and was both a source of inspiration and a recurring theme, but above all a new way of thinking about images. Whether Chagall writes: “I myself become sound” or declares: “I must make the drawing sing through the colour”, he always closely linked music with the visual arts and was in constant dialogue with the choreographers of his time throughout his life.
In creating decorations and costumes for the “Firebird”, Marc Chagall experimented both with large-scale painting and with mixtures of materials. From the first drawings, he incorporated the movement of the dancers into his conception of the costumes. When he designed the ceiling of the opera, he sought to merge it with the architecture of the Palais Garnier by first imagining its composition in terms of colour rhythms. The resulting iconography is deeply autobiographical and a tribute to the great musicians who accompanied him and to the city of Paris where he found refuge. This commissioned work seems to have awakened in the artist a renewed interest in the interplay of materials, whether dabbling in sculpture and ceramics or incorporating fabrics, lace and papers of all kinds into his later collages.
These mature works are representative of Marc Chagall’s activity after the Second World War and bear witness to his investment in numerous commissioned projects and the diversification of his practice. They allow us to share in the privacy of his studio by showing us the evolution of a project from the first sketch quickly drawn on a sheet of paper to the finely crafted drawing that is both a work of art in its own right and the final stage in the preparation of a painting