Part of the Jewish Encounter series Novelist and critic Jonathan Wilson clears away the sentimental mists surrounding an artist whose career spanned two world wars, the Russian Revolution, the Holocaust, and the birth of the State of Israel. Marc Chagall s work addresses these transforming events, but his ambivalence about his role as a Jewish artist adds an intriguing wrinkle to common assumptions about his life. Drawn to sacred subject matter, Chagall remains defiantly secular in outlook; determined to narrate the miraculous and tragic events of the Jewish past, he frequently chooses Jesus as a symbol of martyrdom and sacrifice. Wilson brilliantly demonstrates how Marc Chagall s life constitutes a grand canvas on which much of twentieth-century Jewish history is vividly portrayed. Chagall left Belorussia for Paris in 1910, at the dawn of modernism, looking back dreamily on the world he abandoned. After his marriage to Bella Rosenfeld in 1915, he moved to Petrograd, but eventually returned to Paris after a stint as a Soviet commissar for art. Fleeing Paris steps ahead of the Nazis, Chagall arrived in New York in 1941. Drawn to Israel, but not enough to live there, Chagall grappled endlessly with both a nostalgic attachment to a vanished past and the magnetic pull of an uninhibited secular present. Wilson s portrait of Chagall is altogether more historical, more political, and edgier than conventional wisdom would have us believe showing us how Chagall is the emblematic Jewish artist of the twentieth century. Visit nextbook.org/chagall for a virtual museum of Chagall images."
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(196mm x 135mm x 25mm)
Publisher: Schocken Books
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US Kirkus Review »
A brisk and very sympathetic biography of the celebrated painter by fiction-writer Wilson (An Ambulance Is on the Way, 2005, etc.).This recent entry in the publisher's Jewish Encounters series both benefits and suffers from brevity. The author provides some careful, even artful descriptions, but the absence of reproductions is unfortunate; that old saw about pictures and thousands of words still holds true. Because Chagall (1887 - 85) lived in so many places, his biographer arranges most chapters by location. We learn about the painter's birth in the Belorussian town of Vitebsk, his education in St. Petersburg and Paris, his return to Vitebsk to marry Bella Rosenfeld, the love of his youth, their moves to Berlin, Paris, Vilna and elsewhere. Wilson swiftly relates the Chagalls' 1941 flight from occupied France to Spain and then New York City, rightly chiding Chagall for his curious reluctance two decades later to help the man who arranged their escape. The text records Bella's tragic death, her widower's two brisk remarriages and his relationships with his two children. Ably charting Chagall's rise to superstardom, the author addresses controversies surrounding his subject. He offers interesting thoughts on the Jewish artist's continual use of images of Jesus and the crucifixion. To the prevalent suggestion that when the big bucks started arriving, Chagall softened, painted with bright colors and coasted, Wilson replies: Not so.At times too brief, but written with clarity and compassion: a portrait Chagall would have enjoyed. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Jonathan Wilson
Jonathan Wilson is the author of "A Palestine Affair, The Hiding Room, Schoom, "and" An Ambulance Is on the Way: Stories of Men in Trouble"; and of two critical studies of the fiction of Saul Bellow. His work has appeared in "The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, "and" Best American Short Stories," among other publications. A professor of English at Tufts University, he lives with his family in Newton, Massachusetts.