Heads Up: Chagall, Modern Master

Things are looking up – the first Chagall UK show in 15 years

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A major exhibition at Tate Liverpool of the work of Russian painter Marc Chagall.

Elevator pitch Chagall takes flight – like his subjects – as a soaring new show lands by the Mersey.

Prime movers It's a joint venture with Swiss art gallery, Kunsthaus Zürich, who are currently exhibiting the show, and curated by Simonetta Fraquelli with Gavin Delahunty, Tate Liverpool's head of exhibitions and displays.

The stars Chagall's own pictures. While you can expect to see many of his usual tropes – Russian peasants, flying cows, floating people, colourful creatures, circus scenes – the exhibition focuses on the formative years of his career, in a era of enormous upheaval in Europe: Paris before World War I, his experiences in Berlin in 1914, and the impact of living in his home country of Russia around the time of the Revolution in 1917. The exhibition also charts Chagall's creative interactions with avant-garde art movements, as his work moves from its naïve folkloric roots, through Fauve, Cubist, Expressionist and Suprematist influences, to wind up simply, clearly, all Chagall.

The Early Buzz William Cooke in The Spectator, writing about the current Swiss exhibition, called it a "splendid show", adding that "Chagall never used colour for cheap effect, but to convey meaning and emotion. The effect of seeing so many of his works together is almost overwhelming — a symphony hung upon a wall." Adrian Searle in The Guardian picked it as a spring highlight, writing, "A pioneer of the avant-garde who embraced big themes – particularly love, suffering and death …. In his long life (born in Russia in 1887, he died in France in 1985), Chagall wrestled too much at once but sometimes won."

Insider knowledge The exhibition reflects his interest in the theatre: seven murals, made for the State Yiddish Chamber Theatre in Moscow, will be presented here in a specially designed, immersive installation that's been dubbed "Chagall's Box".

It's great that… it's the first major Chagall exhibition in the UK for 15 years.

It's a shame that… by concentrating on those early years, the show might not feature many familiar favourites.

Hit potential It's gone down well in Zurich, and he's an artist with a wide appeal. Should take off.

The details Chagall: Modern Master is at Tate Liverpool, 8 June to 6 October.