In his long career as an artist, Marc Chagall designed sets and costumes for four stage productions. I wish I had seen any one of them, but the next best thing is the glorious special exhibit this fall at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
The exhibit begins with some borrowed paintings that illuminate Chagall’s lifelong passions for music, performance, and colorful memories of his childhood village in Russia. The painting above is “The Red Circus,” 1956-1960.
Violinists were always prominent in Chagall’s work. “Green Violinist” was from 1923-1924. It’s a fiddler on the roof–literally. This image was used in one of seven murals in the Moscow State Jewish Theater in 1920.
Like countless Jewish artists, intellectuals, and ordinary people, Chagall had to leave Russia. But for the rest of his long life he celebrated and mourned the lost life of his village of Liozna in his work.
By 1942, he was in Mexico working on a production of the Tchaikovsky ballet “Aleko,” which opened in New York City. I love the costume for my favorite animal, the fox. Chagall did all the set design and hand painted the costumes and sets. The work had to be done in Mexico because American union rules prohibited hands-on work on costumes and sets by the artist. His wife worked alongside him, organizing materials and seamstresses.
In 1945, Chagall did sets and costumes for Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe.”
Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute,” in 1967? Sure, coming right up!
The 1965 photo above is by Yousouf Karsh. The artist was still working, twenty years later, on the day he died at age 97. No doubt he still had the same joy in life and in his work. We should all be so lucky!
There’s an article about the exhibit in LA Weekly at: http://www.laweekly.com/arts/lacma-exhibits-marc-chagalls-fantastical-ballet-costumes-and-backdrops-8483565