“Marc Chagall: Intersecting Traditions” is the most recent art exhibition at the Haggerty Art Gallery, which officially opened to the public on Feb. 4, with a reception. On view are about 50 etchings by Chagall, depicting numerous biblical passages: some are well-known, and others may be less popular but no less powerful.
Though Chagall’s work is difficult to categorize, the prints on display have an Expressionist air that is delicate, yet powerful.
On approaching the exhibition, the viewer first sees a series of walls painted yellow, cornflower blue and light green — highly unusual color choices for the gallery. The colors of the walls create a context in which the artwork can be displayed in harmony, as Chagall’s use of color in the etchings is essential to this body of work.
The etchings are printed with black ink on white paper. His use of color is sparse yet intentional; In works like “Passage de la Mer Rouge (Crossing of the Red Sea)” from 1958, Chagall uses areas of blue throughout the composition to draw the eye around the piece and make the viewer aware of the scene. The people in the foreground, the Egyptian Army, are colored a bright red and are moments from drowning when the Red Sea closed down on them. A wall of clouds divides them and the Jewish people, led by a yellow angel, referencing divine intervention. The subtle use of the primary colors act as a narrative device, conveying the powerful emotions Chagall found in the Biblical passage.
Chagall’s series of etchings depict the many facets of the human heart: anxiety, frustrations, dread, joy, hope and many more. His communication with the audience transcends the rational, not only depicting dogma, theology or philosophy. He reaches to the emotional and the intuitive in man and conveys a message that resonates regardless of whether viewers are Jewish or Christian. In other pieces, like “Le repas de la Pâque (The Passover Meal)” Chagall joins Judaism and Christianity in one artwork. A scene of the Passover meal is presented alongside the angel of death flying above the figures. We also find Judas the traitor (colored blue, like the angel) to the left and a Christ (who is left white, unlike the other green figures) on the right; the yellow lamb at the center of the table surely references the Lamb of God.
Chagall’s combination of Jewish and Christian elements convey a strong sense of universality. They remind the viewer that there is no distinction between the god of Christians, Jews or any other spiritual tradition as they promote the dialogue between the Jewish and Christian people.
The exhibition is in the Haggerty Art Gallery, which is found within the Art History Building. It will be on display from Feb. 4 through April 22. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.