Originally published by www.Jewish.Travel,
the new online travel magazine
Click photo to download. Caption: Stained-glass windows in the axial chapel of Reims Cathedral in France, designed by Marc Chagall and made by Charles Marq in 1974. Credit: Peter Lucas via Wikimedia Commons.
The abundance of Marc Chagall’s work in New York
City, where I live, inspired me to see more of his genius abroad. So I headed
to France on my very own Chagall trail.
Here in New York, Chagall’s work is readily
accessible at the Metropolitan Opera House, at the Museum of Modern Art, and at
galleries and at the Jewish Museum. Just 30 miles outside the city there are
nine of his stained glass windows in the Union Church in Pocantico Hills. And
there is great excitement for the exhibit “Chagall: Love, War and Exile,” which
opens at the Jewish Museum of New York in September.
Energized by all of this, in April I
organized a Chagall-centric itinerary from Paris to Nice, and viewed paintings,
stage sets, etchings, mosaics, stained-glass windows, lithographs and murals in
Art historians label the Belarus-born artist’s
work Cubism, Symbolism and Fauvism; some speak of Expressionism. I think of color and sensitivity, as
much for suffering as for love.
Observing his life’s endeavor added to my
understanding of 20th-century Jewish life as much as to my personal pleasure.
In Paris, le Palais Garnier, the Opera House, is
home to a glittering gold and red Chagall ceiling and the Museum of Jewish Art,
in Montmartre, displays a selection of lithographs. The Centre Pompidou
displays dozens of works from his youth in Vitebsk, where he was born in 1887,
through the 1960s in the south of France, where he died in 1985. This national
museum is in the fourth arrondissement near the Marais, the now-trendy
neighborhood that was once home to the largest Jewish population in Europe. Its
narrow, cobblestone alleyways, distinctive architecture and synagogues retain a
strong Jewish presence, and on rue de Rosier kosher restaurants serve
everything from fine steaks to falafels.
Click photo to download. Caption: Marc Chagall’s “The Fiddler.” Credit: Yid613 via Wikimedia Commons.
From the Centre Pompidou’s rooftop terrace,
there’s a clear view of Notre Dame. One of two female figures on the façade, Synagoga,
represents Judaism as symbolized by the broken tablets with the Ten
Commandments. Behind Notre Dame, where the Ile de la Cite comes to a point in
the Seine River, the moving Memorial de la Deportation is dedicated to the
200,000 deported during World War Two.
To see more art, I traveled to Nice by train,
taking the high-speed TGV that glides between metropolitan areas at about 200
miles per hour, and stopped at Lyon and Marseille.
I explored Marseille—European Capital of Culture
2013 and home to a large Jewish community—by bus, before heading 19 miles north
to Aix-en-Provence to see the Atelier Cezanne, Musée Granet and Fondation
Vasarely. From Marseille’s new Gare St Charles, the TGV to Nice takes
two-and-a-half hours along the scenic coast (reserved seats on the upper level
facing the destination have the best view).