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checking out colors of chagall

What would it be like to hang in an art museum? Imagine: suspended by nails and screws on the wall there, crucified, you listen as people come and go talking of Michelangelo.

“A painting in a museum hears more ridiculous opinions than anything else in the world.” –Edmond de Goncourt

I wonder if the inane comments of patrons are more often a figment of movie magic. The scene in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris comes to mind where a minor character, a know-it-all, waxes away about a painting, impressing most everyone, except our hero, who sometime earlier, had the magical opportunity to talk with the painter himself and had learned the original intent. A priceless moment it was and a wonderful and funny observation on museum commentators.

My experiences in museums are different and more common. Most patrons in a museum are quiet, worshipful. The visit is like going to church. One takes a reverential pause in front of a painting and after a suitable moment moves to the next. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

“Color is all. When color is right, form is right. Color is everything, color is vibration like music; everything is vibration.” ―Marc Chagall

Not too long ago I visited the Musée National Marc Chagall in Nice, one of my favorite museums. It is small and fairly inexpensive at 10 euros. One can pass an hour or two in the morning and then leave for lunch later for a discussion with friends about the magnificent collages Chagall had painted and what they might have meant. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Picasso had a great deal of respect for Chagall, and said, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is . . . . His canvases are really painted, not just tossed together. Some of the last things he’s done in Vence convince me that there’s never been anybody since Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has.” (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

“What a genius, that Picasso. It is a pity he doesn’t paint.” ―Marc Chagall

Central to the museum are the seventeen paintings illustrating the Old Testament “Biblical Message.” For example, the museum has a room containing “twelve large-size paintings illustrating the first two books of the Old Testament, Genesis and Exodus.” (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Astonishing to me are how accessible the paintings are to the public. No barriers are installed. One can walk up to the paintings and look at them through a magnifying glass. No glass covers them causing light reflection. Photography is permitted without flash. Personnel are nearby but unobtrusive. 

These photos are deceptive. They make the paintings appear small. To understand the proper dimensions of the paintings, look above to “Abraham and the Three Angels.” In person it is 1.9 meters high (6 feet 3 inches) and 2.92 meters wide (9 feet 7 inches).

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