Marc Chagall’s Jewish Reality and His Jewish Imagination

From 1918 through 1922, three great avant-garde Russian artists—Marc Chagall, El Lissitzky, and Kazimir Malevich—worked together at a Soviet art academy in the city of Vitebsk. Two of them, Chagall and Lissitzky, were Jews; both had spent their childhoods in Vitebsk. Reviewing a current exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York City of the works of all three, Shifra Sharlin explains how Chagall was influenced by an emerging, distinctively Jewish style of art, and how he broke with it:

Both Chagall and Lissitzky studied at Yehudah Pen’s art school [in Vitebsk], which opened in 1897, . . . where Yiddish was the language of instruction and no classes met on the Sabbath. Both participated in the ethnographic expedition, organized by [the ethnographer, revolutionary, and playwright] S. An-Sky, to record and collect remarkable examples of Jewish folk art in the Pale. . . . Both got as far away from Vitebsk as soon as they could. Lissitzky was nineteen when he arrived in Darmstadt to study. At twenty-three, Chagall moved to Paris.

Chagall’s early work, before he went to Paris, shows the distinct influence of Pen and An-Sky in his choice of subject matter. Pen encouraged his students to paint scenes from everyday Vitebsk life. [The poet Abram Efros] praised him for his eclecticism, for the way that he combined Jewish “tradition” and modernism.

[Eventually Chagall] left much of that behind. . . . In Chagall’s [later and better-known] paintings, the documentary specificity of Pen’s paintings, and of his own early work, is absent. Viewers could learn little from them about the actual Vitebsk. They could be misled into thinking that it was a shtetl and not a small city with a population of 100,000. . . . Chagall’s paintings neither preserve the details of which Yiddish newspapers Jewish artisans read, as Pen did, nor do they make use of the folk-art elements, as his own and Lissitzky’s earlier work do. And yet, . . . Chagall captured something that has come to be identified with the Jewish spirit.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Jewish art, Marc Chagall, S. An-sky, Soviet Union

 

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin