Chagall on Stage at LACMA

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, he did the same for a production of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.”


The sets and costumes were fabulously wild. I love the alligator and the green bird.

In 1945, Chagall did sets and costumes for Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe.” 


The pirates were as lovingly costumed as the pair of lovers.


The exhibit at LACMA displays not only the costumes themselves, but the artists’ joyous renderings of them as he worked.

Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute,” in 1967? Sure, coming right up!


Mozart’s fantastic story required fantastic sets and costumes.


Chagall said, “I adore the theater and I am a painter. I think the two are made for a marriage of love.” Amen to that!


If you have a chance, go see this exhibit, and take your time seeing it. The painting above is “The Dance,” 1950-1952. 


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

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