A Farewell to Art: Chagall, Shakespeare and Prospero is a touring show from Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London, showcasing a rare, limited-edition portfolio by Marc Chagall (1887-1985).
Produced at the age of 88, this exhibition features 50 beautiful black and white illustrations created to reflect the artist's interpretation of Shakespeare’s magical play, The Tempest. The exhibition draws on a number of themes, including the relationship between Shakespeare’s Renaissance aristocratic characters in The Tempest and Chagall’s own imaginary mythological world. Curated by Hanna Scolnicov, the exhibition presents her proposal that Chagall saw Shakespeare’s Tempest as symbolic of the tempest that engulfed his own life and the traumatic experiences of European Jews in the first half of the twentieth century.
Chagall knew the pain of being a refugee, having realised his future lay outside Russia. He settled in Paris in 1907 and then, after being caught in his hometown of Vitebsk during the First World War, eventually managed to return in 1923. He was then forced into exile from his home in Paris in 1941 due to Nazi occupation and escaped to New York. It would be perfectly understandable if he compared himself to the exiled Prospero.
Towards the end of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the lead character Prospero famously gives up his ‘rough magic’ and 'drowns his book'. Many have read Prospero’s abdication of magic as symbolic of Shakespeare’s own farewell to writing, as The Tempest is recognised as the last complete play he wrote. Chagall’s illustrations add many different dimensions and can be interpreted in many ways as his own ‘farewell’ to his frenetic artistic output on projects of this scale.
The Gallery is also extremely privileged to borrow a self-portrait sketch by the artist (1925) from a private lender on loan to Ben Uri Collection. The exhibition provides a calm space for contemplation of some powerful and moving themes, of journeys, family, love and loss.
The Arc have programmed a series of events to accompany the exhibition, including a chance to hear more from the exhibition curator.
- Film Screenings
Inspired by A Farewell to Art: Chagall, Shakespeare and Prospero, join us on Tuesdays for a series of relaxed screenings of films inspired by Shakespeare.
- Lorna McNeill - Inspired by Chagall: A Journey from Drawing to Painting
5 sessions, Mondays at 1:30-3:30pm from January 9th
- A Talk from the Curator of A Farewell to Art – Hanna Scolnicov (ONLINE EVENT)
Saturday 21st January at 3:30-4:30pm via Zoom
- A talk from Dr Peter Wakelin: Refugee Artists and British Art since 1870
Saturday 4th February at 11am-12noon
Marc Chagall, The heads of Ferdinand and Miranda, circled by the moon, above the island landscape, 1975, Lithograph, 42.5 × 32.5 cm. Chagall ®/ © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022.
Marc Chagall, While Miranda sleeps, Prospero summons Ariel, 1975, Lithograph, 42.5 × 32.5 cm. Chagall ®/© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022.