Today, we celebrate the birthday of the Great Marc Chagall, born on this day in 1887. This year we also celebrate 30 years since Chagall’s passing and I was very fortunate to be able to commemorate this special year in history with a very special print collection depicting Chagall’s visits to Israel.
Marc Chagall’s love story with the State of Israel began in 1930, before its inception, when Ambroise Vollard, one of the most important art dealers of his time, commissioned him to undertake a series of illustrations of the Bible. Chagall first arrived in then-Palestine in February 1931 and ended up staying for two months. According to Jacob Baal-Teshuva, “he was impressed by the pioneering spirit of the people in the kibbutzim and deeply moved by the Wailing Wall and the other Holy Places”. Chagall traveled a great deal, painting and drawing in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Safed. The country left a vivid impression on him, and once back in Paris, the views and visions he had experienced in the Holy Land were echoed in many of The Bible etchings.
“I did not see the Bible, I dreamed it. Ever since early childhood, I have been
captivated by the Bible. It has always seemed to me and still seems today the greatest source of poetry of all time”, wrote Chagall.
In 1951, the opening of large retrospective exhibitions of his works in Jerusalem,
Haifa and Tel Aviv, prompted Chagall’s second visit, and in 1957, he was again in Israel following the publication of his illustrations to the Bible.
The inauguration of his iconic 12 stained-glass windows for the synagogue of the Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem in 1962 brought Chagall to Israel once again. The stained glass windows representing the 12 Sons of Jacob from whom descended the 12 Tribes of Israel and located in the synagogue of the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Centre in Ein Karem, Jerusalem, were dedicated on February 6, 1962. (Source – Israeli ministry of foreign affairs) “All the time I was working, I felt my mother and father looking over my shoulder; and behind them were Jews, millions of other vanished Jews — of yesterday and a thousand years ago,” – Marc Chagall, February 6, 1962.
The synagogue’s floor and walls made of warm Jerusalem stone simultaneously absorb and reflect the windows’ beauty, imbuing the entire space with an ethereal light. Standing within the simple square that forms the pedestal for the windows, gazing up at the vivid imagery, the Jewish symbols, the floating figures of animals, fish and flowers, even the most casual viewer is overwhelmed by their power and presence. “This is my modest gift to the Jewish people who have always dreamt of biblical love, friendship and of peace among all peoples. This is my gift to that people which lived here thousands of years ago among the other Semitic people.” Marc Chagall, February 6, 1962