Chagall at the Jewish Museum of Australia
Viewing a painting by 20th century modernist Marc Chagall makes you want to step through the frame into the colourful dreamscapes of his imagination. And you can, in a way, because the Jewish Museum of Australia has transformed its gallery rooms into a whimsical wonderland inspired by his paintings.
The new exhibition, simply called Chagall, focuses on the influential artist’s printmaking, poetry and public art, including an exclusive capsule of works that highlights the rich colours and timeless themes of his oeuvre.
The space has been divided with curtains to tell the story of Chagall’s life, accented by reproductions of his 12 stained-glass windows from the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem as well as his stained-glass art from churches and cathedrals around Europe.
Born in 1887 in Vitebsk, Belarus (then part of the Russian Empire), Chagall grew up in a Hassidic Jewish family. Relocating to Paris in 1910 to develop his visual language – which merged folkloric Russian styles, Parisian avant-garde, fauvism, cubism and expressionism – he emerged as one of the most prolific artists of his lifetime.
While Chagall became increasingly secular over the course of his life, his Jewish identity continued to influence his art.
The exhibition is dedicated to the museum’s inaugural director, the late Dr Helen Light AM, and pays homage to the museum’s first ever large-scale exhibition, in 1995, Chagall and the Bible.
Inspired by that exhibition, the museum is displaying a selection of Chagall’s Bible Series, based on the Old Testament, within its permanent gallery on the first floor.
Accompanying Chagall’s work is a selection of paintings (self-portraits, still life and abstraction) by Archibald Prize winner Yvette Coppersmith, in her first solo exhibition in Melbourne since 2016. According to curator Jade Niklai, the two artists share similar inspirations – both explore beauty and the human experience in their works.
While best known for her award-winning portraiture, in recent years Coppersmith’s work has moved into abstraction, with a focus on geometry, colour, and floral motifs – a subject seen in Chagall’s lithographs of various flowers.
The exhibition is open now. A special Chagall Up Late event is also taking place on Saturday June 24 from 6pm to 9pm, with wine and introductions from staff on Chagall’s life, work and legacy.