Illustrations for the Bible, by Marc Chagall; Chagall, by Lionello Venturi
The only one comparable in our time with Picasso as a graphic artist is Chagall (not Rouault), and nothing even the former has done as a graphic artist quite matches in intensity or integrity these illustrations of Chagall’s for the Bible. Commissioned in 1930 by the late Ambroise Vollard, the renowned art dealer and art publisher, they are now presented complete in a setting that is perhaps not as magnificent as Vollard intended, but which is splendid nevertheless.
That Chagall, whose production in oil has on the whole declined over the last thirty years, has been able during that time to make such progress in his graphic work has to do, I feel, with his essential conservatism, his profound and sophisticated nostalgia for the museum. A similar nostalgia, but with different roots (in culture rather than in temperament or autobiography), has exempted Picasso’s graphic work from the even more general decline his painting, too, has suffered over recent decades. The fact that the print has never been a quite appropriate vehicle for modernist art in the making is what seems precisely to enable both artists to continue to exploit it successfully now that the Han of their original contribution to modernist art has faded.
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