EA writer who was as famous as he was art-loving once aptly stated that he liked Marc Chagall “the sooner the better”, who, born in 1887 in what is now Vitebsk in Belarus, created a lot of decorative arts and calendar pictures after the war, consequently riding the successful motifs found from 1912 to death. Whether the cathedral of Metz or churches in Mainz, Zurich and many other places – all got his windows varying the Chagall blue.
The Jewish rabbi with the Torah scroll on the left edge of the picture and the Jewish rabbi Jesus on the cross on the right of Chagall’s “Fall of the Angels” are also colored in these distinctive shades of blue and violet. That picture is the cleverly chosen key witness for the central concern of the exhibition “World in Rebellion” at the Frankfurt Schirn, which opens today, with a focus on the 1930s and 1940s, which were dark for the Jewish artist – and even as a non-Chagallist you have to revise: The painter was much more multifaceted and political than assumed. The misery of expulsion and loss of homeland, of pogroms and the Holocaust plays a significant role in almost every one of the pictures from 1930 to 1948 – the span of the show – if the hidden iconography, as in the Schirn, is made possible by the intermediate stages on display learn to “read”.
The “Fall of the Angels” is Chagall’s program image – which he himself describes as the first in a series of “Premonitions” – which is why an entire chapter out of a total of seven is dedicated to it in the Kunsthalle. The picture measures 148 by 189 centimeters, an unusually large size for Chagall, and was fundamentally reworked three times between 1923 and 1947, as can be read in the bottom right-hand corner next to the signature in a horrific column of numbers: “1923-33-1947 Paris – New York” . From Berlin, the first stop to Russia, and then from Paris, Chagall witnessed Hitler’s 1923 coup and the first waves of anti-Semitism. In Paris he painted the first version of The Fall of the Angels. In 1933, when the second had been created, Chagall had traveled to the British Mandate of Palestine at the invitation of the mayor of Tel Aviv (the 1931 “Interior of a Synagogue” with its converging lines, completely bathed in the Jewish colors of white and light blue, is a great surprise!) , he returned to France in an increasingly heated anti-Semitic atmosphere, from where he emigrated to New York in 1941 to escape the National Socialists.
The “Falling Angel” usually hangs in the Kunstmuseum Basel, where among the multitude of masterpieces the picture is usually not noticed in its exceptionality. The screaming yellow cow, which can hardly be overlooked, to the left of the floating blue violin, for example, simply disappears among all the colorful creatures on the Franz Marcs in Basel. In the same lemon yellow, the moon with its halo above shines into the night-black darkness of the surreal event, in which a green-faced man with a blue jacket and worker’s cap and the wall clock with pendulum that has been appearing at Chagall since the 1920s hovers in the air in front of him and his walking stick in the right to the ear of a purple-robed, blue-faced rabbi with the Torah scrolled up. Slightly to the right of the central axis, however, a fire-red winged angel with robes and wings ending in tongues of fire rises from the bottom of the picture to the top, only that the positive association of a phoenix does not predominate, but rather through the one thrown in agony from the back and apparently falling Figure with the left eye widened with terror and the right eye completely darkened, that of an Icarus.
The emergence of evil
The picture title “Engelsfallen” alone is reminiscent – albeit with different connotations in the Jewish language – of the emergence of evil, in which the once radiant figure of light Lucifer was thrown out of the sky because of her hubris and charred black like a meteorite due to the frictional heat of penetrating the earth’s crust in the since lands at hellish underworld. Chagall’s angel is also about to burn out, its left wing already ablaze a darker crimson than the rest of its body. The red reflection captures the mother and child next to her, whose veil strongly reminds one of a Madonna with the Christ child, as well as the pale blue-violet colored crucified Christ on the right edge of the picture, who on his hip and as a kind of halo behind his head the shimmer of the dying flame being reflects. Standing in front of the monumental work in Frankfurt and only perceiving it for yourself, you can’t help but see the “Fall of the Angels” as Chagall’s “Guernica” – between the mother-child group and the Crucified stands like Picasso’s from the The lamp held by the window is an oversized candlestick in the midst of gray houses, trying to bring a bit of light and warmth into the darkness. The bull as a tormented creature is replaced by the yellow cow in Chagall, with the eyes being similarly large and wide open.