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Marc Chagall, Paintings

At the Peris Galleries, New York City through May 15

On April 5 the Perls Galleries gave a party for Radcliffe, inviting alumnae and friends to sample Chagall and champagne at the opening of its new exhibit in return for a donation to the college.

The party was a success.

Mrs. Gilbert called it a momentous occassion, noting that it was the first time Chagall and Radcliffe had gotten together. The art critics said the paintings were a relief from soup cans and dots. A mink-covered matron decided to buy one to replace an old Chagall she feared had grown unfashionable.

The paintings were full of new objects against the old backgrounds of carnivals and villages and a new, jubilant mood issuing from the familiar figures of lovers and animals. Chagall, an intensely subjective artist, creates a definite atmosphere in each picture, an atmosphere more important than any experiment with composition or technique (Chagall contains elements of both pop artists who magnify and isolate objects so that the contemplation of that object is an end in itself and the symbolists who use an object to represent a specific idea).

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Before and during World War II, for example, Chagall painted figures of horror, destruction, and despair--malformed men, bloody animal faces, burning villages. Today Chagall paints images of fertility and renewal--fish, three-breasted women, and fruit. Flowers are everywhere. Chagall now lives in Southern France in a house surrounded by gardens; his use of flowers seems to tell of the joy and peace he finds in his days. Great round, powerful suns light the skies over the bowls of flowers and shine through the windows into the lovers' bedrooms. Again, Chagall has shown love of life by exalting objects which presently delight him.

Chagall's most recent work illustrates the range of time and feeling his images can create. Le Voile, a wash done in 1963-1964, contains Christ staring down from the cross at a woman and child offering him a handful of flowers. Two handprints dominate the picture's center. The wash, with its figures of guilt and atonement, birth and death, make Christ a sign of rebirth and redemption without suggesting that he removes sin and death from the world. Le Visage, a gouache done last year, is a large face surrounded by tiny nudes, flowers, and animals, Devant le Chevalet, another gouache, shows an artist with huge hands. Perhaps the next subject for Chagall will be himself as the artist. Perhaps, in a setting providing external peace, he has begun to feel acutely the force of the artist in the creation of art. He may reveal the face of the artist behind the figures.

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