press release

The Art Gallery of Ontario is bringing the magic, whimsy and wonder of Marc Chagall to Toronto with a major exhibition organized by the Centre Pompidou. Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde: Masterpieces from the Collection of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, features the lush, colourful, and dreamlike art of Marc Chagall alongside the visionaries of Russian modernism, including Wassily Kandinsky, Kasimir Malevich, Natalia Goncharova, Sonia Delaunay, and Vladimir Tatlin.

The exhibition examines how Chagall’s Russian heritage influenced and informed his artistic practice, illustrating how he at turns embraced and rejected broader movements in art history as he developed his widely beloved style.

Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde comprises 118 works from a broad array of media, including painting, sculpture, works on paper, photography, and film. The artwork is drawn entirely from the collection of the Centre Pompidou and features 32 works by Chagall and eight works by Kandinsky.

The Russian Avant-Garde

Alexander Archipenko (born Kiev, Ukraine, 1887; died New York City, United States, 1964)
The sculptor Archipenko studied in Kiev (1902–1905) before moving to Moscow. By 1909 he was living in Paris in the same studio complex as Marc Chagall. Archipenko was a dedicated teacher who opened art schools first in Berlin and, after World War II, in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Vladimir Baranov-Rossiné (born Kherson, Ukraine, 1888; died Auschwitz, Poland, 1944)
The painter Baranov-Rossiné studied art in Odessa (1903–1908). He participated both in Jewish and contemporary art exhibitions in several cities including Moscow, Kiev, St. Petersburg and Paris. In 1925 he immigrated to France. He was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and died in Auschwitz the following year.

Natalia Goncharova (born Negaevo, Russia, 1881; died Paris, France, 1962) 
Goncharova was a painter, stage designer, printmaker and illustrator who did much to revive Russian folk art. She began studying art in Moscow where she met painter Mikhail Larionov, whom she later married. Both were central figures in the Russian avant-garde art movement. They immigrated to France in 1919.

Alexei Jawlensky (born Torzhok, Russia, 1864; died Wiesbaden, Germany, 1941)
After studying at a Moscow military academy, Jawlensky entered art school in St. Petersburg. He settled in Munich in 1896, but continued to exhibit in Russia. In 1906 his works were shown in Paris, where he met Henri Matisse. He spent several summers in Germany with Vasily Kandinsky. In 1921 Jawlensky settled permanently in Wiesbaden.

Vasily Kandinsky (born Moscow, Russia, 1866; died Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, 1944)
Kandinsky was a central figure in the development of 20th-century abstract painting. After studying economics and law, he turned to painting and moved to Munich. The war forced him back home to Russia in 1914, but he would return to Germany in 1921. Kandinsky became a leading source of inspiration for younger generations of abstract artists during the mid-1900s.

Ivan Koudriachov (born Kaluga, Russia, 1896; died Moscow, Russia, 1972)
Koudriachov studied art in Moscow from 1912 to 1917. Settling in the Ural Mountains in 1918, he returned to Moscow in 1921 where he became a set designer for the theatre and exhibited abstract paintings. Koudriachov survived the Stalinist period, and near the end of his life he created variations of his work from the 1920s.

Mikhail Larionov (born Tiraspol, Moldova, 1881; died Fontenay-aux-Roses, France, 1964)
Painter and stage designer Mikhail Larionov was a leader of the Russian avant-garde before World War I, founding the movement known as Rayonism. In 1907 he began collecting icons and children’s art. He left Russia in 1915 with his wife, painter Natalia Goncharova. By 1919 they had settled in Paris where Larionov worked as a set designer.

Jacques Lipchitz (born Druskininkai, Lithuania, 1891 died Capri, Italy, 1973)
Jacques Lipchitz studied commerce before travelling to Paris in 1909. There he attended art school and made regular visits to the Louvre. He became friends with fellow Russians Marc Chagall, Ossip Zadkine and Alexander Archipenko, and rented a studio at La Ruche, a renowned artist's residence in Montparnasse. Lipchitz continued to work in France until 1941, when he immigrated to the United States and gained recognition as one of the century's outstanding sculptors.

El Lissitzky (born Pochinok, Russia, 1890; died Moscow, Russia, 1941)
Refused entry to the art academy in St. Petersburg because of his Jewish background, El Lissitzky instead studied in Germany and Moscow. He illustrated Yiddish books and organized exhibitions of Jewish art. In 1919 Marc Chagall invited him to teach in Vitebsk. As a graphic designer and painter of abstract works known as Prouns, El Lissitzky played a key role in the Constructivist movement.

Kazimir Malevich (born Kiev, Ukraine, 1878; died Leningrad, Russia, 1935)
Malevich studied art in Kiev and Moscow. In 1919 he began teaching at the Vitebsk People’s Art College, which was directed by Marc Chagall. Malevich was a central figure in the Russian avant-garde movement. He pursued a pure geometric abstraction (with no reference to any recognizable form) known as Suprematism, which influenced much 20th-century art.

Pavel Mansouroff (born St. Petersburg, Russia, 1896; died Nice, France, 1983)
Mansouroff began studying art in St. Petersburg in 1909. During World War I he trained in the air force, where he became interested in the aesthetics of airplanes. In 1918 he exhibited abstract paintings in the Winter Palace, former residence of the czars. Mansouroff’s radical art began to attract criticism from the State after 1925, and in 1929 he settled in Paris.

Antoine Pevsner (born Klimovichi, Belarus, 1884; died Paris, France, 1962)
Painter and sculptor Antoine Pevsner was the son of an industrialist. He studied art in Kiev and St. Petersburg before he travelled to Munich and spent three years in Paris beginning in 1911. In 1917 he returned to Russia and soon began to make precise geometric abstract paintings. In 1923 he and his wife settled permanently in Paris.

Ivan Puni (born Repino, Russia, 1892; died Paris, France, 1956)
Puni was a painter, illustrator and designer. In 1910 he studied in Paris, but returned to St. Petersburg by 1912 and became a key innovator in the avant-garde movement. His abstract three-dimensional paintings were shown together with the first Suprematist works in 1915. Four years later, at the invitation of Marc Chagall, he taught at the Vitebsk People’s Art College. He settled permanently in France in 1924.

Alexander Rodchenko (born St. Petersburg, Russia, 1891; died Moscow, Russia, 1956)
Rodchenko’s work spanned painting, sculpture, design and photography. He became deeply involved in revolutionary politics and played a central role in the Russian Constructivist movement. In 1919 he became a master of photomontage (cutting and reassembling photographs), creating many emblematic revolutionary images. In the 1930s Rodchenko designed costumes and sets for theatre and film.

Vladimir Stenberg & Georgii Stenberg (born and died Moscow, Russia, 1899–1982) & (born and died Moscow, Russia, 1900–1933)
The Stenberg brothers were sculptors as well as graphic and set designers who studied art in Moscow from 1912 to 1917. They worked together on decorations for the 1918 commemoration of the Russian Revolution, and organized an exhibition of Constructivist art in 1922. George’s accidental death in 1933 ended their collaboration.

Dziga Vertov (born Białystok, Poland, 1896; died Moscow, Russia, 1954)
David Kaufman (pseudonym Dziga Vertov) was a pioneer of early documentary film. In 1920 he joined the October Revolution propaganda train to record its journey. After his bold approach was rejected by Russian officials, he turned to studios in Ukraine for support. His masterpiece is this experimental film Man with a Movie Camera.

Ossip Zadkine (born Vitebsk, Biélorussie, 1890; died Paris, France, 1967)
The sculptor Zadkine was born in the same town as Marc Chagall. His father was Jewish (but converted to Russian orthodoxy) and his mother was of Scottish descent. After studying art in England, Zadkine settled in Paris in 1909, living in the same studio complex as Chagall. He never returned to Russia.

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Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde

Künstler: Marc Chagall & Sonia Delaunay, Wladimir Tatlin ...
Alexander Archipenko, Vladimir Baranov-Rossine, Natalija Gontscharowa, Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, Ivan Koudriachov, Mikhail Larionov, Jacques Lipchitz, El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malewitsch, Paul Mansouroff, Antoine Pevsner, Iwan Puni, Alexander Rodtschenko, Vladimir Stenberg & Georgii Stenberg, Dziga Vertov, Ossip Zadkine