press release

From its inception, the Guggenheim Museum has been committed to representing and promoting the art of Marc Chagall. Paris Through the Window, Chagall's 1913 masterpiece, was among the first works to enter Solomon R. Guggenheim's modern art collection when it was selected by Guggenheim's influential advisor Hilla Rebay (later the museum's first director) in 1929. Although Rebay was a passionate, lifelong proponent of “non-objectivity”—fully abstract painting without any origin in the visible world, as epitomized by the work of Vasily Kandinsky—she nevertheless greatly admired Chagall's resolutely “objective” paintings, with their recognizable, if fantastic, figures and settings. The enthusiasm she and Guggenheim shared for Chagall's work resulted in a number of further acquisitions in the 1930s and ’40s, including The Green Violinist (1923–24), purchased from the artist in 1931, at a time when Chagall was experiencing the brunt of the global Depression and in need of support; and The Flying Carriage (1913), acquired in 1949. By the end of the 1940s, Guggenheim and Rebay had assembled what was then the most significant collection of Chagall in New York. Guggenheim and Rebay also helped the Russian-Jewish artist and his family to escape Nazi-occupied France in 1941 by providing them with affidavits for entry into the United States.

The three paintings by Chagall in this small exhibition—together with The Soldier Drinks (1911–12), on view in the exhibition RUSSIA!—reveal the strength of the Guggenheim's Chagall holdings and represent the 20th-century master at his greatest. They demonstrate Chagall's unique merging of the most recent stylistic advances in Paris—the Cubist fragmentation of space, the bold color of Fauvism and Robert Delaunay's Orphic Cubism—with memories of his hometown of Vitebsk and elements of Russian folklore and Jewish myth. Chagall's highly personal, dreamlike images resist straightforward interpretations and aesthetic categorizations and endure in their lyrical power to this day.


Marc Chagall - Selections from the Collection
On view in Thannhauser 4 Gallery