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Lugano exhibition offers comprehensive look at career of Chagall

Museum director Rudy Chiappini with Chagall's niece Meret Meyer at the opening ceremony

(Keystone)

Art has joined politics on the agenda in Lugano, where a major exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Russian-born artist, Marc Chagall (1887-1985), is being staged in the city's modern art museum.

The exhibition is one of the most comprehensive ever staged of Chagall's works, and was timed to coincide with an extraordinary session of the Swiss federal parliament in Ticino- only the second time in 200 years it has moved from Bern.

The exhibition presents Chagall's earliest works in Russia as well as those from his final years in France. Its layout, both chronological and thematic, enables visitors - many thousands are expected - to understand the development of one of the 20th century's most original artists.

"Unlike most other Chagall exhibitions concentrating on limited periods, this one covers his entire working life," says curator Rudy Chiappini. "It is represented by over 80 paintings on loan from museums and major private collections."

The effect is a sweeping and colourful tour of the artist's melancholic world, as rich in colour as it is in symbols, and reflecting his Jewish background in scenes from family life.

Chiappini says his personal favourite period of Chagall's productive years was the Russian one (1910-20), when the painter's family and Jewish roots made their mark on his creativity.

"Even in the later Paris years he remained true to himself despite drawing from the strong influences at the time of such movements as Cubism and Surrealism."

Chagall lived through turbulent times, at one stage fleeing with his family from Paris to the United States. That was in 1941 during the spread of Nazi rule in Europe.

Many of his paintings were destroyed during both world wars, and after returning to France in 1948 his output - much of it based on biblical works - was prolific.

This representative selection of his surviving works is expected to attract large numbers of visitors before the exhibition closes on July 1. Over 12,000 tickets were sold before it even opened and the museum - which has extended its opening hours for the duration - is advising the public to book in advance.

by Richard Dawson


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