Marc Chagall Exhibition at Tate Liverpool

Marc Chagall is one of the most revered artists of the 20th century and I read recently that, during the 1950s, Pablo Picasso said: “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only one left who knows what colour really is.” I found this quote interesting as my first thought after seeing images of Chagall’s paintings for the time, in a calendar my mum got me for Christmas one year, was that I didn’t like his use of colour – particularly the way he mixed blues and greens.

At this point, without knowing anything about Chagall or what his art represented, I’d decided I wasn’t a fan. Fast forward a couple of years and his work was on display for the Chagall: Modern Master exhibition at Tate Liverpool. Wondering if seeing his paintings ‘in the flesh’ would change my fleeting negative opinion, my mum suggested we go along.

Marc Chagall at Tate Liverpool

“The differences between the styles  of his work were so great that some of the paintings did not look like they were by the same artist.”

Did my view change after seeing his paintings at the exhibition? Yes and no. The paintings I’d seen pictures of in the calendar still didn’t wow me when I was standing right in front of them. I still couldn’t get past his use of blue and green and felt that many of his paintings lacked depth. Seeing a display of his paintings together, it was clear that Chagall had a variety of influences; in fact the differences between the styles of his work were so great that some of the paintings did not look like they were by the same artist. 

The Green Donkey 1911 Marc Chagall 1887-1985 Presented by Lady Clerk 1947

The Green Donkey 1911 Marc Chagall 1887-1985 Presented by Lady Clerk 1947

Surrealism, Cubism, Symbolism, Fauvism… his work was like a box of chocolates for modern art. But, for me, his Surrealism works were no match for the likes of Gustav Klimt, he was the poor man’s Picasso in terms of Cubism and his Symbolism didn’t have as much impact as Salvador Dali. There were, however, a few of his paintings that I loved, none more so than his incredible ‘Blue Lovers’. 

blue lovers by marc chagall

This painting depicts Chagall and his wife Bella in a loving grasp. I liked the way he used blue, a typically cold colour, to create such a warm and endearing image that captured a moment of tenderness and vulnerability perfectly. While the not-so-popular Chagall calendar is long gone, a postcard of his ‘Blue Lovers’ is now on display in my flat. 

Marc Chagall Fact File:

  • He was born to a Jewish family in Vitebsk, Russia (now Belarus) in 1887
  • Besides painting he worked with many other mediums, including stained glass, ceramics and book illustrations
  • He lived in Paris and was influenced by the avant-garde movement – trying out several styles as oppose to having an affinity to one in particular
  • His native Russia and Hassidic Jewish roots inspired his early works that feature imagery drawn from Jewish folklore
  • A recurring symbol in Chagall’s work is a white cow 
  • Under the Nazi regime during the Second World War, Chagall sought exile in New York with his wife Bella and daughter Ida
  • In the 1960s, Chagall was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Paris Opera House
  • He died in 1985 at the amazing age of 98


Chagall: Modern Master

Location:           Tate Liverpool

Open:                  Until October 6 2013

Cost:                    Adult £11, Concessions £8.25