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Chagall and Germany:
Periods of reception by Chagall’s German audience


An Exhibition of  the Jewish Museum of Frankfurt am Main and of the Foundation Brandenburger Tor, Berlin Frankfurt - February 2nd – April 18th 2004 / Berlin - May 1st – August 1st 2004

Chagall and Germany – this subject is about a complicated life-long interrelation between one of the most important modern artists and a country that had undergone tremendous changes in the arts at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it was to end abruptly later on under the rule of National Socialism.

World War II and its breach of civilization, which had occurred to a then yet unknown extent, had long-lasting disturbing effects on the German identity and compelled the German nation after 1945 to undergo a new orientation in the arts and sciences.

Chagalls reception in Germany from 1913 until the present reflects all these disturbances in a seismographic manner. Today his works of art have not only come to give testimony to these breaches of civilization but have also become symbols of a universal humanism which crosses the borders of various countries and cultures.

The exhibit at the Jewish Museum of Frankfurt and at the foundation “Brandenburger Tor” in Berlin will present Chagall from a new point of view by focusing on the cultural and historical reception of his work, and by showing the artist’s reactions to these particular occurrences.

Accordingly, Chagall’s pictures will be put into a double perspective: they will be presented from the viewpoint of contemporary collectors of art, patrons and artist colleagues and they will also be simultaneously shown as documents of history.

The exhibition will be subdivided into three parts, analogous to these periods of reception by Chagall’s German audience:

Chagall as a modern Jewish Artist in Berlin

As a distinguished Jewish artist of the avantgarde, Chagall is supported by a small committed audience that collects his works (1913-1933). Among his sponsors and patrons are prominent gallery owners like Herwarth Walden, Paul Cassirer and Joseph Beer-Neumann.  During Chagall’s stay in Berlin (1922-23), he studies with Hermann Struck and Joseph Budko the art of etching and woodcut that will open decisive new perspectives for his artistic endeavours. He creates the series of etchings titled as "Mein Leben" (My Life) under the patronage of Paul Cassirer.

"Degenerate Art" – the Artist Takes a Stand Against Inhumanity

Chagall’s works had already come under attack in 1933. With the beginning of 1938 they came to embody the idea of "Degenerate Art" under Nazi rule. The confiscated works, which included many masterpieces from his time in Paris, were sold abroad in exchange for foreign currencies.

As a reaction to the Jewish people being ostracized and also to the Shoah, Chagall created new works that are replete with metaphors using crucifixion as the supreme notion of suffering as its central theme.

Biblical Messages and Reconciliation

After the Second World War the German audience begins to discover Chagall as a modern painter. His artistic work paves the way to a great extent for the general understanding of modern and also of abstract art. At the same time Chagall’s biblical illustrations are prominently perceived to be a sign of reconciliation.

Zur Ausstellung erschien im Prestel-Verlag ein umfangreicher, reich bebilderter Katalog.

Stiftung Brandenburger Tor Berlin
Prof. Monika Grütters und Janet Alvarado, (030) 22633016 (

Marc Chagall and Germany 20-04-04


Jüdische Weisheit


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