Sunday, April 15, 2012

For Three-Word Wednesday, Magpie 113 and ABC Wednesday


"N" is for Nostalgia
What is a Chagall?
A Chagall is – well, just about everything.
It’s a painting, a stageset, a tapestry, stained glass, even dishes and pots.
It’s cubism? Yes. Symbolism? Of course.
But it’s basically modernism, color-splashed modernism, with surrealism as a powerful driving engine.
If you can get past the Modern Art 101 terminology, a Chagall is also something very different.

Carefully examining the work of this painter, Marc Chagall, you will find a dependence on a theme that appears throughout: nostalgia. It is really his one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village.
That village, over a hundred years ago, was a town named Vitebsk, then part of the Russian Empire.
We know it as Anatevka.

Why? Well, of the many pictures of Eastern European Jewish life Chagall painted, one was titled “The Fiddler,” who was standing, strangely enough, on a roof.
To the artist, a fiddler, especially one trying to play on a roof, was a metaphor for Jewish survival in tsarist Russia, a life of uncertainty and imbalance.
That painting inspired the Broadway show, “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was the first musical to run for over 3,000 performances.
When rumpled Tevye, the milkman (who had five daughters, among other problems), sang about his humble home town, Anatevka, he was really Marc Chagall, who throughout his lifetime kept remembering his town, Vitebsk.
“People who pass through Anatevka don't even know they've been here.
A stick of wood. A piece of cloth.
What do we leave? Nothing much.
Only Anatevka.
Anatevka, Anatevka.
Underfed, overworked Anatevka.
Where else could Sabbath be so sweet?
Anatevka, Anatevka.
Intimate, obstinate Anatevka,
Where I know everyone I meet.
Soon I'll be a stranger in a strange new place,
Searching for an old familiar face
From Anatevka.”

When Chagall left his Anatevka to go to Paris, he was no longer Russian; he became Russian-French, and one of the most successful artists of the 20th century.

27 comments:

Helen said...

Good morning! I have spent the past several hours immersed in Chagall ~ what an incredible talent. Almost too intimidating for this blogger to come up with a poem .....

To life, to life, l'chaim

Tess Kincaid said...

Wonderful post...Chagall is a favorite of mine...I thoroughly enjoyed this Mr. B...

Roger Owen Green said...

Did not know the Chagill link to Fiddler on the Roof. Love that show, too.

Daydreamertoo said...

I had only read a small snippet of information on this artist. Thanks for covering it in a bit more depth. I found it fascinating and so apt (being a dreamer too) :)

Stafford Ray said...

When a prompt is a puzzle, I come here for answers.
Fascinating, and as usual, entertaining. Now I have to find a copy of Fiddler!

susan m hinckley said...

Love Chagall, and loved this opportunity to reconnect with his work. Thanks for helping with that. And for making the Fiddler link -- perfect!

izzy said...

I have always really enjoyed his work- and appreciate the info! thanks.

Linda said...

I always enjoy your blog, Berowne. There are fresh and interesting ideas floating here! Thank you for sharing this expressive connection to Chagall's art. How lucky we are that he lived so long and created such meaningful imagery. =D

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Chagall's work at the Met is astounding, but I knew nothing of his roots. The moment I read the name "Anatevka," I remembered the song from "Fiddler." What a remarkable story. Berowne, I love learning from you. Peace, Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/04/15/the-drifter-3ww/

kaykuala said...

Appreciate your anecdotes, Berowne! You always come with something well researched or from your personal encounters. It's an education!

Hank

Strummed Words said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Strummed Words said...

I wonder about the red in his painting. Is it an expression of joy or...?

Di Eats the Elephant said...

I believe that Fiddler on a Roof came from a short story by Shalom Aleichem called The Five Daughters (although I may have the title wrong). I love Marc Chagall, especially his windows and challah coverings (reproductions there). Would be nice to know if Anatevka really is Marc Chagall's town - and who knows if any of them were really all that different from each other, these Russian villages? - but like knowing that his painting The Fiddler inspired the fiddler on the rooftop of the musical about Anatevka, even while/if the story was inspired by the short story. Nice blending of several valid sources. One of my favorite movies as well. Thanks for adding to the knowledge and the lore surrounding this great movie, and this great artist.

Sue said...

Wonderful. Enjoyed the background.

=)

Berowne said...

Di Eats: Yes, I'm well aware of the Sholem Aleichem story. However, because of the prompt and in the interest of brevity, I kept my emphasis on Marc Chagall.

Berowne said...

Tess Kincaid: "I thoroughly enjoyed this, Mr. B..."
Thanks - always great to hear from Tess K.

Lucy Westenra said...

Thank you, Berowne. Most of this was new to me, particularly the significance of the fiddler on the roof.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Thank you for your wonderful informative history lesson Berowne - fascinating!

Anna :o]

Catfish Tales said...

I loved 'Fiddler on the Roof' and can still sing the 'Matchmaker' song. Chagall is colourfully poignant and often misunderstood. You gave a good recant of this lovely man. Cheers

Little Nell said...

A very enjoyable tribute to the artist - and educational too! I knew of that fiddler painting, but not the connection to the musical. Thank you.

Other Mary said...

I didn't know! My son was Tevye several years ago (brilliant too, I say as a completely unbiased observer, lol). I'l going to forward this to him. Thank you B.

Berowne said...

My thanks for some really interesting comments from Other Mary, Little Nell, Catfish Tales, HyperCRYPTICal, kaykuala, Amy and Linda.

Kay L. Davies said...

My friend Wil in the Netherlands posted a photo of a Chagall window today.
I love the information about Fiddler on the Roof. I've always referred to the play as "Fiddler" and now I know I was using the Chagall name. Very informative, as always, Berowne.
K

Margaret said...

Applause, applause. His work evokes powerful imagery and emotion... I googled him and spent over 1/2 hour looking at his paintings! I thank you for this information and Fiddler on the Roof (theatre and movie) I hold dearly within my heart...

Emille said...

Am glad to have found another fan of Chagall!
I love this painter, and amazing because he was able to continue painting as a Jew throughout World war II.

Sheilagh Lee said...

you have such an interesting way of explaining things that draws the reader in.

oldegg said...

Wherever we finish up it is always our original hometown that we remember. A great account of Chagall.

 
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