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Exhibition of Russian-French modernist painter Marc Chagall opens in Italy

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By Daniel Bellamy  with AP
Exhibition of Russian-French modernist painter Marc Chagall opens in Italy

The Ragione Palace in the Italian city of Mantua has put on an unusual display of the work of Russian-French modernist painter Marc Chagall.

The paintings have not been chosen by the exihibtion's curators but by Chagall himself who created them to decorate the State Jewish Chamber Theater walls in Moscow in 1920.

Here in Italy this very theatre has been recreated to showcase the seven murals of the artist: "Introduction to the Jewish Theatre", "Music", "Dance", "Drama", "Litterature","Wedding Feast" and "Love on the Stage".

"We can say these are extremely interesting pieces," explains Tatiana Gorodkova, Head Curator of The State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

"Chagall was invited and asked to create the decorations for the first show of the theatre. The spaces were small, a series of rooms, that were adapted to make the theatre that could hold 90 people. When Chagall visited and saw the space for the first time he decided that he would paint the walls as well as create the decorations that had been asked of him for the show. He worked hard for forty days to create these pieces that are incredible."

In the reproduction of the theatre the left wall is entirely covered with a painting called "Introduction to the Jewish Theatre" which tells the story of the world of theatre.

Chagall has depicted himself being held by the theatre manager, as if he were a little boy.

He is holding his painting board toward the theatre director Granowsky and many artists and musicians are represented in the piece.

At the other end of the mural Chagall has created another self-portrait at an older age with his wife Bella and his daughter, mixing times and spaces.

According to Gorodkova the reproduction of the theatre is a success as it also manages to highlight Chagall's intertemporal appeal.

"There is a glass window where the stage was which allows us to see the back wall of the palace which is historical and has fresco remains from the 13th century. This association of images, ideas and this dialogue that takes place between the two eras shows how Chagall was a world citizen in terms of culture. The relationship between his paintings and the frescos - this context contributes to the space and time dialogue specific to the artist and underlines it in a wonderful way."

Outside the theatre room many other works by the artist can be admired with a selection of paintings and watercolours dating from 1911-1920 on display.

"I concentrated the choice of the pieces to those years which I believe are the most intense, educational and revolutionary in respect to the international context of Chagall, and that is from 1911 to 1920 in regards to the paintings. These are the years in which Chagall educates himself in Paris where cubism is affirming itself, and then he returns to Russia and participated in those revolutionary years, which he will remember as fundamental years for him," explains Gabriella Di Milia, the exhibition's curator.

These paintings include "Window at the Dacha. Zaolzhje" in which you can see Chagall and his wife looking at the nature outside a shut window, representing a time in which the artist was isolated in his home country.

Overall the exhibit aims to show how the literary world intertwined with Chagall's art, and exemplifies this with illustrations by the artist of many important literary works including N.V Gogol's Poem Dead Soul, the Fables of La Fontaine and the Bible.

Furthermore, the exhibit is accompanied by a catalogue published by Electa that gathers the main literary and poetic texts written about the artist by critics, intellectuals and poets of his time

'As in Painting, So in Poetry' runs from 5 September 2018 to 3 February 2019 at the Ragione Palace in Mantua.