« CHAGALL, MODIGLIANI, SOUTINE & CIE L’ÉCOLE DE PARIS (1900 – 1939) »
Musée d’art moderne, Céret 9 July – 13 November 2022
By Ellen Turner Hall
The summer show at the Ceret museum of modern art is dedicated to three artists – Chagall, Soutine (both from Byelorussia) and Modigliani(from Italy) – who created what came to be known as the “School of Paris”, the bubbling heart of the Parisian art scene between 1900 and the beginning of World War Two.
Cubism is represented by the Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris, as well as the Russian Léopold Survage. Survage’s portrait of the writer and patron of the arts La Baronne Hélène d’Oettingen places her in a decor rich in fabrics and books with side panels of an eccentric mixture of fish, lobsters, biscuits, apples, pears, flowers, garlic, grapes, the head of a rooster and a tin of sardines!
Other Russian artists like Marc Chagall and Chaim Soutine, as well as the sculptor Ossip Zadkine created “La Ruche” a shared workshop space in a former pavilion of the World’s Fair of 1889. Chagall’s To Russia… painted in 1911 in Paris, nevertheless depicts nostalgia for his native village with its cows, wonky rooftops, onion domes and dreamlike floating figures. Portrait painting was the central occupation of the artists who joined Amedeo Modigliani in his Montparnasse workshop. Modigliani’s serene long-necked beauty, Dédie, is the perfect foil to Soutine’s bright red hands-on-hips figure of the Groom.
During the same period photographers like Brassai(Romania) and Kertesz (Hungary) documented the city in all its splendour. Brassai’s dazzling Le pont neuf literally glows in the dark, while Kertesz’s Shadow of the Eiffel Tower protectively wraps itself around the street scene below.
Occupying the middle of the last room is a bronze statue of the painter Daniel Widhopff by his fellow Ukrainian Chana Orloff. His round figure is seated, pipe in mouth, gaze straight ahead, legs parted, feet planted firmly on the ground, an immigrant happily settled in his new homeland.
Both the Ceret exposition and that of Collioure (Babel des arts, 1905-1945) demonstrate how foreign artists found in France political and artistic refuge and integrated the local art scene, contributing to its evolution. Works by some of the same artists can be viewed in both museums.