Tag Archives: Birthday

Happy Birthday, Marc Chagall!

7 Jul

A dreamer amongst artists, a poet of colours, a kind soul with a psychedelic imagination: Marc Chagall, was born on 7th July 1887. Let us dive into the beauty of his art, be high as kites for a while, and then close our eyes and become a part of his world of love, dreams, flowers and the rapturous ecstatic blue colour.

Marc Chagall, Bouquet près de la fenêtre, 1959-60

I think this is a good moment to read about Chagall’s years in Paris and the whimsicality of his art. If you are perhaps interested in the mystery behind his birthdate and the symbolism of number seven in his art, you can read about it here. And this is a post I wrote about Chagall last February:

Marc Chagall – The Paris Years (1910-1914)

‘At that time I had grasped that I had to go to Paris. The soil that had nourished my art was Vitebsk; but my art needed Paris as much as a tree needs water. I had no other reason for leaving my homeland, and I believe that in my paintings I have always remained true to it.’ (Marc Chagall, My Life)

Marc Chagall, Paris Through the Window, 1913

It’s 1910 and Marc Chagall has just arrived in Paris. After a four day journey by railway from Saint Petersburg, he settled in the first available atelier. Paris was the Mecca for young artists; dominant art form at the time was Cubism, all sorts of avant-garde movement, both in painting and poetry, were emerging and art circles of Paris had just began migrating from Montmartre to a chic area called Montparnasse which would remain a home to many artists in the years that followed.

Chagall visited ‘Salon des Indépendants’ (Society of Independent Artists), just a day after he arrived in the ‘capital of arts’. He visited Louvre as well. He realised there, in front of the canvases by Manet, Monet, Pissaro and Millet, why for all those years Russian art seemed foreign to him, why he couldn’t connect with it. Language of his paintings was foreign and bizarre to Russian artists. Chagall soon enrolled at Academie de La Palette, an avant-garde art school. Other notable pupils of the school were: Sonia Delaunay, Roger de La Fresnaye and Lyubov Popova.

Marc Chagall, Still-life (Nature morte), 1912

Still, not everything was as rose-tinted as it may seem. In addition to being penniless and not speaking French, Chagall was very lonely and often his thoughts wandered back to his home in Vitebsk, his Hasidic experiences, Russian folklore, and his beloved Bella. ‘All that prevented me from returning immediately was the distance between Paris and my home town’, he wrote in his autobiography My Life.

After living in a small atelier in Montmarte, Chagall moved into one of the studios in artist’s residence called ‘La Ruche’ (literary Bee Hive, named after the shape of the building), in Montparnasse. This atelier was more spacious than the previous one, which meant he was able to use larger canvases. Night after night he painted until dawn. Sometimes he used cut-out sheets and his nightshirts instead of proper canvases. His atelier was often disorderly; eggshells and tins of cheap soup could be found lying around. On the wooden table reproductions of El Greco and Cezanne’s painting laid scattered around. Sometimes, after a night spent painting furiously, he thought of buying warm croissants on the loan, but went to bed instead. In the market, he could only afford to buy a cucumber, as he once said. Other mornings, he hoped his friend Blaise Cendrars would come around and take him to breakfast. Also, Chagall painted naked because he despised being dressed, and he had poor taste when it came to clothing. One of his neighbours in La Ruche was Chaim Soutine, a ‘wilful and grouchy eccentric’ and a fellow Eastern Jew.

Various sounds could be heard coming from the ateliers: humiliated models wept in Russian studios, Italian ateliers echoed with songs, romance and sounds of guitar, in Jewish – discussions and quarrels, while Chagall painted in solitude and silence.

Marc Chagall, The Fiddler, 1912

Chagall couldn’t have chosen a better moment to come to Paris. Russian artists were welcomed with great enthusiasm. Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, formed in 1909, sparked a passion for all things Russian and exotic. Diaghilev brought together dancers, choreographers, musicians, writers and painters. Ballets such as Scheherazade, Les Orientales and Stravinsky’s The Firebird caused sensation. Exotic mood, colourful costumes, emphasis on the individual dancer and expressive dance movements changed public’s notion of ballet, and opened doors for many young artists to express themselves. Leon Bakst, Chagall’s former teacher in Saint Petersburg, came to Paris and worked as a scene-painter for Russian Ballet.

Chagall once visited Diaghilev’s ballet, hoping to encounter Bakst and Nijinsky. Behind the scenes he stumbled upon rosy-cheeked and red-haired Bakst who smiled to him. Then Nijinsky came along, but quickly returned to the stage where he performed a dance from the ballet ‘Le spectre de la rose’ with Tamara Karsavina. Italian poet Gabrielle D’Annuzio was flirting with Ida Rubinstein. Bakst considered hiring Chagall as his helper in scene-painting, but he quickly dismissed the idea when he saw how unskilled Chagall was.

Marc Chagall, Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, 1913

Interestingly, Marc Chagall’s circle of friends in Paris was mostly comprised of poets and writers, not merely painters. His closest friends were Guillaume Apollinaire, poet, novelist and art critic whom Chagall called ‘gentle Zeus’, and Swiss-born poet and novelist Blaise Cendrars, whom many considered as Rimbaud’s direct heir in poetry style. Sonia and Robert Delaunay were one of his painter-friends. Chagall was drawn to Sonia for various reasons: they were almost the same age, both grew up in Jewish homes and both had studied art in St. Petersburg.

Unlike Sonia, who fully delved into Orphism along with her husband Robert, Chagall’s paintings from ‘The Paris Years’ burst with motifs reminiscent of his childhood in Vitebsk. Painting ‘I and the Village’, a psychedelic Cubist fairytale, with soft, velvety colour transitions, is a whimsical kaleidoscope of colourful houses painted upside-down, Ortodox church, man’s face with a green mask, upside-down female violin-player, man carrying a scythe, and a Jewish element – The Tree of Life. Chagall’s style is unlike anything else in art history, and just like Modigliani, he is a painter whose art cannot be placed in a specific art movement. Nourishment of his art was childhood memories and imagination. This painting is a visual representation of his thought ‘The soil that had nourished my art was Vitebsk; but my art needed Paris as much as a tree needs water.

Marc Chagall, I and the Village, 1911

I just finished reading his autobiography ‘My Life’, and I can’t express how much I’m enchanted with his art and him as a person. His humanity is what I admire the most. To me, he is an embodiment of Terence’s quote ‘I am human, and nothing of that which is human is alien to me.’ (Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.)

Marc Chagall, The Drunkard (Le saoul), 1911-12

MARC CHAGALL (poem by Blaise Cendrars)

He is asleep

Now he is awake

And suddenly he is painting

He reaches for a church paints with a church

He reaches for a cow and paints with a cow

With a sardine

With skulls hands knives

Paint with a nerve of an ox

All the besmirched sufferings of little

Jewish towns

Tormented by burning love from the depth

of Russia

For France

Death heart and desires

He paints with his thighs

Has his eyes in his behind

There it is your face

It is You dear reader

It is I

It is he

His own betrothed

The grocer on the corner

The milkmaid

Midwife

Newborn babies are being washed in

buckets of blood

Heavenly madness

Mouths gush forth fashions

The Eiffel Tower is like a corkscrew

Hands heaped on each other

Christ

He himself Jesus Christ

He lived a long youth on the cross

Every new day another suicide

And suddenly he is no longer painting

He was awake

Now he is asleep

Strangles himself with a tie

Chagall astonished

Born on my immortality.’

Three Years on the Blog – Special Post: Things That Make Me Happy

20 Oct

It’s 162th anniversary of Arthur Rimbaud’s birth. And it’s also the day which marks the third year of my blog! I am very excited to be announcing this and I will use this opportunity to thank all of you readers, both old and new, who at least once decided to take a few minutes of your day and read my post, to all who ever commented and shared their thoughts, to all who ever liked my post, or felt inspired after reading it. Also, this is my 275th post.

thee-years-on-the-blog-1-b-byronsmuse

Of course, this blog means to me more than it could ever mean to you, not only because it is a place to share my interests, but also because it shows the passing of time, which is a thing that saddens me the most. When I started this blog I didn’t know what would become of it, or how long it would last, but now I see that I have created a place of beauty, and I also know now that I never want to differentiate between old and new, Dionysian and Apollonian, posh and trashy. Quite the opposite, I want to share things that inspire me, write about them in a passionate, lyrical and informative way, and make connections between the art as it is classically perceived, and fragments of popular culture. I love making connections between works of art and lyrics from rock songs. And I’d be damned if I’m wrong. Art, literature and rock and roll are three most important things in my life after all!

Still, I have to say that my most popular posts include topics such as 1960s, Syd Barrett and psychedelia. I’ve had quite a few people telling me that my posts are evocative of the sixties, and that’s coming from people who lived in London at the time, so that’s truly a compliment, if I’m allowed a bit of arrogance today. I’ve had nothing but fondest experiences related to this blog, and I’ve had a chance to get acquainted with some really nice people, some I’d even like to meet in person one day. It goes without saying that it’s an immense pleasure writing it.

I’ve made three collages which represent the main themes of my blog. All in all, if you are a faithful follower you already know, and if you’re a new reader you are about to find out; I would call my posts a whimsical mix of art, psychedelia, Romanticism and Rock Music, Pre-Raphaelites and Swinging sixties, Jane Eyre and 1840s, with a bit of poetry, Impressionism, Modigliani, Klimt and Egon Schiele, a few film and book reviews, and a fair deal of broodiness and melancholy because it’s so sweet being sad, and I can’t help it.

thee-years-on-the-blog-2-byronsmuse

I will use this opportunity to share something a bit more personal than it is usually the case with my posts – I will talk about things that make me happy. And here they are: rain, thunderstorms and grey skies. Autumn weather and leaves crackling underfoot. Candles; plain white ones, lighting them makes me feel like I’m in Victorian era, or in a Gothic novel. Discovering art, reading and writing about art. Listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes. Poetry. Long walks. Daydreaming about far-away places, moods, people and architecture. Cappuccino, chocolate, cakes; anything sweet. Being in a middle of a really good book. Listening to groovy music, and any of the following: Syd Barrett, Manic Street Preachers, The Smiths, The Libertines, Echo and the Bunnymen, Velvet Underground, The Stone Roses, Joy Division… Putting new pictures on my wall. Documentaries by Waldemar Januszczak. Writing a good post. Finding a smashing connection between an artwork and lyrics from a song. Being dressed like a sixties dolly.

thee-years-on-the-blog-3-byronsmuse

If you have any suggestions or some good blogging tips, feel free to share them, it would be much appreciated! And of course, share with me what makes you happy if you’d like, I’m always happy to hear.

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

16 Dec

Jane Austen was born on 16. December 1775. – exactly 238 years ago!

1810. jane austen

I love Sense and sensibility and Pride and prejudice and I wanted to wish a happy birthday to this wonderful lady novelist. Who knows, maybe I’ll write something about regency fashion soon. Anyways, hope you’ve read her novels and liked them too!