“When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is... His canvases are really painted, not just tossed together.”
— Françoise Gilot, Life with Picasso (1989)
As one of the greatest masters of color in the twentieth century, Matisse believed that color was the foundation of painting, serving both as a means of expression and as the decoration of an entire artwork. In the section “Matisse and Illustrated Books” of the exhibition “Matisse by Matisse,” the curator turns towards art publisher Tériade, who was Matisse’s long-term collaborator, and presents art books he published in collaboration with other modern masters to capture the flourishing of creativity of the time. Among these works, Marc Chagall’s art book illustration, Daphnis and Chloé (1961), illuminates the exhibition space with its dreamy and vibrant colors.
The book was named after Tériade’s beloved ballet Daphnis and Chloe, adapted from a Greek pastoral romance from the second century. Perhaps it was the romantic poetry and the simple rural life depicted in the story which motivated Tériade to commission Chagall to illustrate an art book with the same title. The final publication comprised 42 illustrations, each showcasing Chagall’s unique mastery of color. Warm and cool tones are blended seamlessly, and the coexisting abstract and figurative elements convey tenderness and a unique visual aesthetic. This book was therefore regarded as Chagall's magnum opus in the realm of printmaking.
In 1906, Matisse and Picasso crossed paths. Picasso was deeply attracted to Matisse’s Fauvist use of vibrant colors. Matisse’s exceptional use of color and unique understanding of light inspired numerous other artists to experiment with color. Yet their works seldom achieved the same sense of balance and delight as Matisse. It was not until 1944 that Picasso finally found another artist who was equally adept at using colors: Marc Chagall, a pastoral artist wandering between multiple art movements.
Born into a Jewish family, Chagall frequently showcased Jewish folklore in his early artworks. His canvases resembled a vivid garden, teeming with nostalgia and imagination. He masterfully compressed different spaces and dimensions, drawing inspiration from Fauvism and Cubism, and adeptly employed a diverse range of colors to create scenes brimming with light and romance. Throughout their 20-year friendship in Paris, Chagall and Picasso influenced each other and embarked on a joint exploration of the true essence of color in their artworks.
When the artist and poet, who wandered in romantic reveries, was acknowledged as a pioneer of the Surrealist movement, he politely declined the honor. Meanwhile, another Russian avant-garde artist, Kazimir Malevich, was shaping understandings of art in a different way. Similar to Chagall’s formative experiences, Malevich ventured through Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism in his early artistic career. In 1913, he began working with a distinctly proto-Dada patchwork-like approach, before going on to invent Suprematism.
On Sunday, September 17, UCCA, The Parkview Museum·Beijing and DDDREAM are collaborating to screen Chagall-Malevich as part of the "Matisse by Matisse" film series. The screening is supported by the film’s copyright holder DDDREAM. We invite you to step into the early twentieth century, a time when various art movements, such as Fauvism (led by Matisse) and Cubism (led by Picasso) vied for attention in the art world. Let us explore how the art world grew more inclusive and expansive, and how new masters grew out of a multitude of art movements.
Director: Aleksandr Mitta
Genre: Drama/ biography
Production companies: SHIM Film, Marmot-film
Duration: 116 minutes
Copyright holder: DDDREAM
Synopsis: The film is an attempt to recreate the world of Marc Chagall and his myth within the genre of a folklore ballad. We are not exploiting Chagall’s images, but are attempting to create a dramatized projection of his creativity onto the movie screen, relying on both, facts and fantasy (as Chagall himself would). The story is based on real events which occurred at the time of Chagall’s short-lived Vitebsk “Commissariat” in 1917-1918, during which time he created the Academy of Modern Art, inspired by his dreams of a bright and beautiful future. Many pictures by Chagall and Malevich are used in the film.
Aleksandr Mitta (Director, Screenwriter)
Alexander Mitta is a Russian film director and screenwriter. His career spans from the 1960s until the 2010s. In 1980 Mitta directed the film Ekipazh, which gained millions of viewers and was nominated for Best Feature at the Chicago International Film Festival. In the same year he was a member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival. In 1991 he shot Zateryannyy v Sibiri. The film was nominated as the Best Foreign Language Film at the 49th Golden Globe Awards.
Cao Kai (Editor-in-chief, World Screen Magazine)
Cao Kai holds a Master of Arts from Beijing Film Academy and has been engaged in film media and publishing for more than 20 years. He is the author of The Cradle of Film - A Modern Fairy Tale of Beijing Film Academy, and planner of the film almanacs Art Evaluation of the 2021 Golden Rooster Awards, 80 Years of the Oscars, and Total Film.
The Parkview Museum·Beijing
The films copyright provider on the Chinese mainland is DDDREAM.
Known for its vision and capability to integrate resources, DDDream is the leading brand in discovering and servicing high quality independent films in China. Over the years, DDDream has successfully distributed over 1000 international films in the challenging and ever-changing China market. These films include award-winning classics and highly acclaimed hits such as Paris, Texas, Central Station, Orlando, The King’s Speech, The Hurt Locker, Our Little Sister, and more. With its firm belief in “Diversified Cross-Border Integration for Common Growth,” leveraging on its rich library, DDDream provides creative and strategic solutions to commercial/arthouse cinemas, TV broadcasters, VOD platforms, cultural institutes, film festivals and exhibitions, and implements them via its two brands: “Wishes on the Cloud” for online streaming events, and “Landing Your Wishes with DDDream” for offline screening activities.
Media Cooperation: World Screen