In [Seth] Wolitz's opinion, Chagall’s standout piece of graphic art appears in “Troyer” (“Grief,” or “Mourning”), an art book published in Kiev in 1922. A collaboration between Chagall and Yiddish poet Dovid Hofshteyn, “Troyer” is a cry of outrage against the ruthless destruction of Jewish shtetls in Ukraine during the Civil War pogroms of 1919 and 1920. Proceeds from sales benefited Jewish children orphaned in the pogroms.

The Chagall of “Troyer” is decidedly not the Chagall of floating lovers and errant violins. He depicts the murderous violence bitterly decried in Hofshteyn’s narrative poems, in images of swords, axes, mutilations and blood, done in spare graphics and representational Yiddish lettering. Most notable, according to Wolitz, is Chagall’s use of diagonal lines, characteristic of the suprematist school of art founded by his Russian rival, Kazimir Malevich. Suprematism represented the best of new Russian culture, but in “Troyer,” Chagall co-opted it to mock that culture and display its brutality. “This is protest in the highest style,” Wolitz said. He notes that Chagall never again used his art for polemic purposes. (via The Jewish Daily Forward)

  August 12, 2012 at 01:13pm
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