Mit der Hilfe des Himmels...


Make payments with PayPal - it's fast, free and secure!
This is free information, but if you find it useful, you can help its development with your donation.

Search haGalil

Newsletter abonnieren
Bücher / Morascha
Koscher leben...


Marc Chagall and Germany
- An Introduction


Chagall was discovered in a similar manner like Van Gogh already before the World War I as an important artist of the modern world in Germany. German Jewish and non-Jewish patrons, who were interested in the avantgarde, were among the collectors of his art. The art critic and gallery owner Herwarth Walden had a pivotal role in this setting as an agent. He made the acquaintance of Chagall in Paris in 1912/1913 and regularly exhibited  from that time onward Chagall’s art at his Berlin gallery 'Der Sturm'.

While Chagall couldn’t leave in Russia during World War I, he became famous as an artist through Herwarth Waldens continuous exhibitions of his works, although as a person he still remained unknown. His works not only were kept at private collections but also at the museums of Frankfurt, Mannheim, Essen and Dresden. Among the German collections there were paintings which are today considered to be his absolute masterpieces such as 'I and the Village',1911, 'Golgotha', 1912 (both presently at MOMA, New York), 'Coachman, Horse and Cart' 1912, 'The Rabbi', ca. 1921 (both presently at the Kunstmuseum Basel), ‘The Soldier Drinks’, 1912/1913, 'Paris Through the Window', 1913 (both presently at the Solomon R.Guggenheim Foundation, New York) and ’To Russia, Donkeys and Others’ 1911 (presently at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris).

Chagall left Russia for good in 1922 and pursued his work in Berlin from May 1922 to October 1923 before he finally settled in Paris permanently at the end of 1923. His temporary stay in Berlin became decisive for his career as an artist because he could learn from Hermann Struck und Joseph Budko the art of woodcut and of etching. In Berlin he created under the patronage of Paul Cassirer his first etching series called 'Mein Leben' (My Life).

At the time, Berlin was a centre for Jewish artistic endeavours. Notable Jewish artists were pursuing their work there e.g. Jakob Steinhardt, Ludwig Meidner, El Lissitzky, and Issachar Beer Ryback, Jankel Adler, all whom Chagall knew personally. Like Chagall himself, they would especially express their Jewish identity in their graphic arts. Many of these works simultaneously served as printed illustrations for texts. Chagall’s series for his biography 'Mein Leben' combined textual contents and pictures in a completely new manner, which underscores his prominent position as a Jewish artist.

At the same time this series of etchings also made him internationally renowned as a modern illustrator. The techniques of illustration which he had acquired in Berlin gave Chagall access to a new field of artistic work with which he would occupy himself again and again until the end of his life.

Until 1933 Chagall was a renowned painter of modern art, even and especially in Germany where notable museum directors such as Georg Swarzenski and Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub had purchased his pictures. Already in 1933 these  purchases came to be the target of Nazi propaganda. In Mannheim at the exhibition "kulturbolschewistische Bilder" Chagall’s famous painting 'The Pinch of Snuff' was pulled on a hand-cart through the streets together with a painting from Jankel Adler and publicly jeered at.

In 1938 all of Chagall’s oil paintings and water-colour pictures were confiscated from the public collections. Four of these were on display at the exhibition of "Degenerate Art" (i.e. 'Purim' from the Folkwang Museum Essen, 'The Pinch of Snuff' from the Kunsthalle Mannheim, ' Winter' and 'Men with Cow' – two water-colour paintings from the Städtische Galerie at the Städelsche Kunstinstitut in Frankfurt/ Main). The confiscated works were later sold in Switzerland in exchange for foreign currencies. Today they are dispersed at notable museums throughout the world. Paintings that belonged to private collections shared about the same fate. For instance those that belonged to the vast private collection of Herwarth Waldens. Today they are located in the U.S. and in Switzerland.

Chagall himself has made the beginning rule of tyranny in Germany an important theme in his paintings like in 'Solitude' of 1933 and ‘The Chute of Angels’, on which he worked from 1923-1947. After he heard of the pogroms during the so-called “Reichskristallnacht” in 1938, he created a major work called ‘The White Crucifixion’, today in the Art Institute of Chicago.

He returned to this topic again and again in the course of time thereafter to condemn murder and violence (e.g. ‘The Yellow Crucifixion, which is presently exhibited as a loan to the Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaisme, Paris).

In his etchings about the bible, which he begins in 1931, he makes the issues of guilt and atonement, revenge and damnation a major theme. Some illustrations like the prophecies of the destruction of Jerusalem and Babel appear to be most especially metaphors for contemporary catastrophes.

Chagall is not able to finish in France his already begun etchings on  the bible. For he needs to flee from the Germans in 1944. Only after his return from exile in the United States is he able to finish this series from 1952 to 1956. As soon as they are brought to offer, they immediately go out of stock. Again there are German customers among the purchasers, e.g. Bernhard Sprengel from Hannover.

Chagall is once again exhibited in Germany during the 1950’s and now proves to be a magnet for the audiences. His pictures bring to association the wish for reconciliation. Paintings such as "Moses Receives the Tablets of the Law" and etchings about the bible become stylized in the fashion of this idea as icons. At the same time museums begin to repurchase formerly confiscated pictures and also acquire new works of art. The Adolf-und-Luisa-Haeuser-Stiftung in Frankfurt acquires the painting "Commedia dell'Arte" for the lobby of the new theatre together with all the accompanying drafts.

Under the banner of the politically desired reconciliation, Chagall receives as an already very old artist the assignment to create new windows at the church of St. Stephen in Mainz. The project is partially supported by the local state government of the Rhineland-Palatinate. The windows become Chagall’s last large work which he is still able to complete.

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:
Poesie, Fabeln, Impressionen
Vom 13. Februar bis zum 9. Mai 2004 in Augsburg... 20-04-04


Jüdische Weisheit


haGalil onLine

1995/2006 © by haGalil onLine®
Munich - Kirjath haJowel - All Rights Reserved
haGalil onLine - Editorial