Marc Chagall, Backdrop for Aleko: A Wheatfield on a Summer’s Afternoon

Marc Chagall, Backdrop for Aleko: A Wheatfield on a Summer’s Afternoon (Scene III), 1942, gouache, watercolor, and graphite on paper, 15 1/4 × 22 1/2 in., Museum of Modern Art, New York, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, 1945, © 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris, digital image © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art/licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, NY

‘Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage’ at LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art organizes ‘Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage’, the first U.S. exhibition to spotlight the principal role that music and dance played in Marc Chagall’s artistic career. July 31, 2017 to January 7, 2018.

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Concentrating on four theatrical productions created over a quarter century (Aleko, The Firebird, Daphnis and Chloe, and The Magic Flute), the exhibition comprises 145 objects, including 41 vibrant costumes; nearly 100 preparatory sketches; rare 1942 film footage of the original performance of Aleko; musical accompaniments for each section; and a selection of paintings depicting musicians and theatrical scenes.

The exhibition opens with 11 costumes and 18 preparatory studies from Chagall’s production of “Aleko”, from 1942. Chagall and his family, who were Jewish, emigrated to New York in 1941 fleeing persecution from Nazi-occupied France. The following year, the Ballet Theatre of New York (now the American Ballet Theatre) commissioned him to design the scenery and costumes for “Aleko”, a new ballet based on an 1824 poem by Alexander Pushkin and set to Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Trio in A Minor”. The ballet was choreographed by Léonide Massine, a fellow émigré and former member of the Ballets Russes, with famed dancers Alicia Markova and George Skibine dancing the lead roles. Chagall’s work premiered at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City on September 8, 1942, before opening at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York a month later. Chagall came to Los Angeles in the summer of 1943, when the ballet was performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

About Marc Chagall
Born in Vitebsk, Russia (present-day Belarus) in 1887, Chagall came to global prominence early in his career, which lasted for more than seven decades and spanned Russia, France, the United States, and Mexico. Although aspects of Fauvism, Russian Avant-garde, Cubism, Symbolism, and Surrealism are evident in his varied output, Chagall’s lyrical style is uniquely his own. He remained committed to figurative and narrative art, portraying imagery rooted in personal history, Eastern European folklore, and Jewish and Russian musical traditions. Given his enduring engagement with the human figure, it is no surprise that Chagall was interested in adapting his work to performance, and saw the stage as a platform for artistic experimentation.

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