On display are about 130 paintings and drawings, some of them previously unseen, coming from private collections, from the Musée National d'Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou
and the Musée National Marc Chagall in Nice. The exhibition inside the Ara Pacis
complex pays tribute to Marc Chagall on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death.
Observe the painters works, and you are soon aware of what is so very singular about the world he depicts. Strange characters from another age inhabit improbable spaces; animals are transfigured; a huddle of architecture forms the backdrop to scenes that are both ordinary yet magical.
Again and again we are invited to contemplate a world where upheaval could equal catastrophe - or tragic muddle - or indeed enchantment and delight. That is why we are so readily drawn into Chagalls canvases, each one of which reveals episodes in which human beings, animals and objects are displaced, promenaded, transferred. Topsy turvy, the images detach themselves from contingent reality, from their point of origin.
The exhibition sets out to shed fresh light on the factors which led the artist to conceive a world in which, as he put it, a man needs to be face to face with what is behind him to affirm he is walking forwards or an upright vase does not exist, it must fall to prove it is stable. We look in turn at the artists relationship with the Surrealists, who were adept at revolution and turning established values on their head.
But the exhibition also makes room to address other theories, particularly those concerning the artists religious identity. The roaming forms, their migration towards the very centre of the painting, their constant peregrinations seem, in fact, to hint at a link with the exoduses the Jewish people underwent at various times in their history.
The world that Chagall portrays is, in a very real sense, a world turned upside down. It is a world in which time has no shores, to borrow the title of a 1930s painting in which the betrothed and the married, rabbis and musicians, clocks and carts, donkeys and cockerels - even the artist himself, so often self-portrayed - give themselves up to bold acrobatics, not unlike the circus performers the artist liked so much to take as his subjects. The exhibition brings together ninety one works, 23 paintings and 68 drawings, of which some twenty have not previously been shown.