1887 – 1985
One of the greatest personalities in the art world of the twentieth century, whose destiny was formed by all of the most significant historical difficulties of this era. Although influenced by expressionism, cubism, fauvism, symbolism and other modern painting directions, Marc Chagall arrived at an original, timeless style, defying all trends. Seemingly simple, but much deeper in emotions and thoughts.
Marc Chagall Biography
Vitebsk He was born in the Belarusian town of Vitebsk, at the time a part of the Czar’s empire, as Moshe, that is Moshe Segal. The Russian authorities then made him into Mark Zakharovich Shagalov. And later, in France, he became Marc Chagall, this time of his own will. Marc was the oldest of nine children of a Jewish herring trader. His mother stayed at home. Any influence of an artistic environment, then, can be ruled out. Despite this, however, there was an artistic environment, but other than in the ordinary sense of the word. Vitebsk and its Jewish atmosphere became a lifelong inspiration for Chagall. His mother soon perceived his talents and began supporting them. And so, despite the bureaucratic adversity, racial discrimination and poor finanical possibilities, he was able to obtain an art education. In 1909 he came home from his studies in Petrograd, and a fateful encounter took place. He met Bella Rosenfeld, daughter of a jeweler. They immediately fell in love with each other. Only, the girl was just fourteen at the time. Nevertheless, this year can be taken as the beginning of a relationship that lasted a long 35 years.
Paris For the First Time Whoever wanted to become important in art, had to go to Paris. Marc acquired a sponsor in 1910 – a Jewish lawyer named Maxim Winawer – and headed for the Mecca of the art world. At first he wanted to turn right around and disappear. For a youth from the countryside, the metropolis was too hectic. But he persisted, stayed and France became his new home. He became acquainted with Picasso, Braque, Delaunay, Apollinaire and many others. From their artistic experiments and discussions, he only took away one thing: Rules aren’t for him. He would create in his own style. He chose the path of poetic imagination, simple expressions depicted in an almost naive style. He was living hand to mouth, because buyers and critics were not prepared for something like this. The “inartificiality” of his artistic expression put them off. In 1914 Apollinaire finally recommended Chagall to Herwarth Walden, a German expressionist painter and founder of the magazine Der Sturm (The Storm). He was enthralled and offered Marc the opportunity for an exhibition at his gallery. The exhibition was a success, even financially. Chagall, however, never got to enjoy the longed for money. The First World War “imprisoned” him for eight years in Vitebsk, where he was visiting his parents and his beloved Bella. His main goal now was to avoid military service. He was not interested in fighting for the homeland, which had always discriminated against his people. He hoped the conflict would be over quickly and that he could somehow wait it out in his hometown. But the war seemed to have no end in sight. Despite the resistance of Bella’s parents, Bella and Marc were wed in 1915 and immediately afterwards, his brother-in-law secured a comfortable bureaucratic job for him at the Ministry of War in Petrograd. The threat of being drafted into military service had passed. The October Revolution raised new hopes. The end of discrimination against Jews, we’re all comrades and all comrades are looking forward to bright tomorrows. Chagall, just like many other Jewish intellectuals succumbed to the opiate of communist visions. He became a commissioner of art for the Vitebsk region. The introverted Chagall soon began to resent his functionalist career and he began to lose his illusions of a fair organization of the world. In 1920, he not entirely voluntarily gave up the post of director of the Vitebsk Academy and moved to Moscow, where he taught drawing at an orphanage and cooperated with a Jewish chamber theater group as a set designer. Socialist Realism was victorious in the field of art, as the only permitted style. Marc realized that he must leave and in 1922 he left Russia.
Paris for the Second Time Fortunately, Europe had registered Chagall’s success in Berlin and even his important post-revolutionary activities in Russia in the area of art education. Art dealer Ambroise Vollard gave him a job – to illustrate Gogol’s Dead Souls. Immediately thereafter there followed others, which in 1930 culminated with the offer to illustrate the Bible. The Old Testament became a new motivating force for Chagall, opening a new era in his work, in which he was placed among religious creators. For Christians he was too Jewish, and for Jews he was too Christian. It took a few years before everyone realized that Chagall’s biblical world is human above all. The artist approached the biblical illustrations very responsibly. First he traveled through the countries, which form the setting for the Old Testament stories. He visited Israel, Syria, Egypt ... he studied the works of the big graphic artists of the past: Rembrandt and El Greco. In this way he expanded his already great knowledge of art techniques. He became a master of the drypoint process, etchings and lithography.
The Second World War In the 1930s, with the growing influence of the Nazis, anti-Semitism also began to grow. Marc Chagall could not have not noticed. His works were considered to be perverted art, and in 1939, the Germans confiscated 59 of his works. Due to his previous experience of anti-Semitism in Russia, the artist had no illusions. He fled with his family to the South of France. He was imprisoned, but following pressure from the United States, he was freed and in June 1941 he arrived in New York. He was not happy there, the absurdity of the war weighed heavily upon him, along with the irreconcilability of Judaism and Christianity. Materially, however, he was not suffering. An exhibition in New York in 1927 assured his popularity overseas. In 1944 he suffered another blow. Bella, his muse and the mother of his daughter, died of a viral infection. He was unable to paint for a year.
Paris for the Third and Last Time
His creative potential was fully revitalized after two year, only with the new relationship with Virginia Haggard McNeill. In 1946 after his return to Paris, she gave birth to their son David. The Bohemian lifestyle no longer attracted the artist, however. He longed for peace and in 1950 he relocated to the Mediterranean town of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Virginia however was unable to live with a creation-obsessed artist and after two years found a new partner. Marc however, was unable to live alone. After several months he married Valentina Brodska, known as Vava. She became his new muse, though a somewhat dramatic one. At her insistence, they moved to Vence in Provence. She checked the correspondence and completely supervised the day to day running of the household. She enthusiastically supported her husband in his work. Even though, like Marc, she was of Russian Jewish origin, she had converted to Christianity. She tried to convince her husband to do the same. He did not, however, take these efforts too seriously. He’d never been an orthodox Jew. In fact, if he had, he could not have been a painter because the Talmud forbids the depiction of people and animals. Jewish culture and its symbolism, however, was an inseparable part of his work. A number of stained glass windows in European cathedrals, however, bear witness to Vava’s influence on her husband’s jobs, which she most likely directed according to her own priorities. Towards Christianity...
In the sixties, the Chagalls traveled a lot. They visited Greece, Israel, Switzerland, Denmark, Great Britain and other countries. In 1973 even Moscow came up on their agenda. The Ministry of Culture and the Tretyakov Gallery invited the famous countryman for the occasion of the opening of his grand exhibition. It was a truly strange return in the time of the Cold War. It was all the stranger in that Chagall had never hidden his anti-communist feelings.
Chagall passed the last decade peacefully, with walks and painting. The painter was already avoiding public works and social life. And it’s no surprise. He died at the venerable age of 95. Vava had him buried in a Catholic cemetery, and decorated the gravestone with a cross. Only at the insistence of his daughter Ida, was the kaddish, a Jewish prayer of praise and blessing, also said.
Marc Chagall – Most Important Exhibitions - 1912 Paris (Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d'Automne) - 1913 Berlin (Der Sturm Gallery) - 1924 Paris (Barbazanges-Hodebert Gallery) - 1926 New York (Reinhardt Gallery) - 1933 Basel (Kunsthalle Basel) - 1938 Brussels (Palais des Beaux-Arts) - 1942 New York (Artists in Exile) - 1946 New York (Museum of Modern Art) - 1947 Paris (Musée National d'Art Moderne) - 1951 Jerusalem - 1959 Paris (Museum of Decorative Arts, Palais du Louvre) - 1963 Tokyo (National Museum of Western Art) - 1967 Zurich - 1970 Paris (Musee du Grand-Palais) - 1974 Berlin and Dresden (National Gallery) - Paris 1977-1978: The Artist's Work from 1967 to 1977 (Musée du Louvre) - 1982 Stockholm (Moderna Museet), Denmark (Museum of Modern Art) - 1983 Paris (Centre Georges Pompidou) - 1985 Philadelphia (Museum of Art), London (Royal Academy)
Selected Awards - 1948 Grand Prize at the Biennale of Graphic Design in Venice - 1959 Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters - 1977 Legion of Honor First Class. Holder of a number of honorary doctorates and citizenships
31 5 1892 – 28 9 1971
Poet, French and German translator, draughtsman and graphic artist. None of these words can encompass what Bohuslav Reynek primarily was – a person.
His life’s pilgrimage seemed to be given. He was born as the only son of a farmer in Petrkov, a village near Havlíčkov, at the time Německy Brod. His studies at the German high school in Jihlava however propelled his interest towards poetry and fine art.
Likely, pedagogue Max Eisler, who later became dean of art history at the University of Vienna, also played a part. For, after graduation, Bohuslav followed his fathers wishes and went off to Prague to study agriculture, where he did not last long. He returned to the farm in Petrkov which his father had leased earlier, a month later. Here he worked as a helper and planned a trip to France. He made the trip that same year. It was just at that time that his first attempts at poetry and art were made.
In 1914 he began collaborating with publisher Josef Florian from Stara Říše. He wrote poetry, translated and illustrated. At the beginning of the 1920s, a collection of poems Ta vie est l.... (Here is Your Life …) found its way into his hands. It was so close to his heart, that he longed to translate it. He did not hesitate and set out to Grenoble, to meet the author Suzanne Renaud to obtain her consent. Three years later, she became his wife. After this, they lived alternatingly in France and Petrkov. In 1928 their son Daniel was born and in 1929 Jiří. After the death of Bohuslav’s father in 1936 the family remained permanently at the farm and took over its maintenance. During the second World War, annexation occurred and the Reyneks were forced to lease Petrkov to Germans and later leave it entirely. They moved in with the family of the publisher, Florian. After the war they returned, only, nationalization came. Bohuslav Reynek was permitted to live only in a designated part of the farm and work as a laborer. He fed pigs and was a goatherd ... until his retirement in 1957.
It is almost unbelievable that Bohuslav and his wife managed, with all of their regular work, worries and the escapades of history, to keep creating. After February 1948, however, Bohuslav Reynek no longer interested anyone. As a farmer’s son and spiritually-focused artist, he was to be forgotten. Only later in the freer years, his first exhibition in the postwar years took place in 1964. He suddenly became a “discovery”, a phenomenon. Petrkov transformed into a cult pilgrimage site for intellectuals. The “boom” faded with the end of the Prague Spring, however, Bohuslav Reynek continued to create, until his peaceful death in 1971.
He is laid to rest next to his wife, Suzanne and parents at the cemetery of the Holy Cross, near Havlíčkuv Brod.
THE STORY OF THE WORK
The need to create was something more for Bohuslav Reynek than it was for others. It was as if it were a natural function of his organism, like breathing. It grew into an unceasing urge. Not for profit, not for fame or even for elevation or pleasure, whether his own or that of others. Only for the joy of the act of creation, of “residing” in his own world.
Although Reynek is generally known primarily as a catholic poet, he is maybe more of a fine artist. He exhibited for the first time in 1929 in Pardubice, and his exhibitions in France were also successful in the following years.
As a self-taught graphic artist, what led him to express himself on life in the language of lines, lights and shadows? At first, most likely, it was the need to adequately illustrate his own literary work, later the understanding of the universality of visual language, able to capture what words cannot.
As a poet, as well as a graphic artist, Bohuslav Reynek was an adherent of simplicity. A lone figure of the age. All of the megalomania, gluttony and exhibitionism of the many of the bohemians from the ranks of his peers was foreign to him. Something which is reflected in the means of expression and forms of his prints. He began with drawings, coals, pastels, and, following the example of Josef Čapek, linocuts. Later, he discovered for himself the techniques of drypoint and etchings, the most basic and readily available of the intaglio techniques. Just a play of the black and white tonal values. When he used color, it was conservatively coloring. Even during his later experiments with techniques, he never slipped into fancy insubstantiality. Simplicity of form always underscored the message. Maybe simple, but for that so much deeper. The works of Bohuslav Reynek never speak with brilliance of drawing, but with feeling. For the magic of the moment, the better in all of us. For love ... for the landscape, home, people, animals, life, God.
BIBLIOGRAPHY AND ARTISTIC LEGACY
- Žízně (Thirsts ) – collection of poems, 1921
- Rybí šupiny (Schools of Fish) – collection of poems in prose, 1922
- Smutek země (Sorrow of the Earth) – collection of poems, 1924
- Had na sněhu (Snake in the Snow) – collection of poems in prose, 1924
- Rty a zuby (Lips and Teeth) – collection of poems, 1925
- Setba samot (Sowing of Solitudes) – collection of poems, 1936
- Pieta (Piety) – collection of poems, 1940
- Podzimní motýli (Autumn Butterflies) – collection of poems, 1946
- Mráz v okně (Frost on the Window) – collection of poems, 1969
- Sníh na zápraží (Snow on the Threshold) – collection of poems, 1969
- Odlet vlaštovek (Departure of the Swallows) – posthumously issued collection of poems (written 1969–71, 1st edition in Munich 1978)
- Vánoce (Christmas) 1940–1941
- Pašijový cyklus (The Passion Cycle) 1940s
- Sníh, (Snow) 1941
- Pastorále, (Pastorals) 1942–1945
- Job, (Job) 1948–1949
- Don Quijote, (Don Quixote) 1955–1960
Hundreds to thousands of drawings and prints, the exact number of which will probably never be known.
Copyright: Dagmar Hochová - pozůstalost