No, I’m not from the shtetl, thank you.

Russia’s Jews are often thought to have either lived in shtetls or turned into Communists.  Which is true, but not totally.  The current Jewish Museum exhibit  on Chagall and the Russian avant-garde theater suggests otherwise, as do several new books.  Here’s my story on it.

And here’s some further reading:

  • The exuberant review of “Ballet’s Magic Kingdom” in the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review. It’s a new translation of work by the great Russian ballet critic Akim Volynsky (ne Chaim Leib Flekser).
  • Jed Perl’s review of the Chagall exhibit. Perl says Chagall was deeply spiritual, if not quite religious. And that he was in fact a master, contra the mod critical opinion.
  • But Richard Dorment says that’s rubbish. Chagall was a phony. He was a cheap knock-off of Picasso, Braque and Malevich; his modernist touches were merely gloss; and he hadn’t a clue what the movement was really all about.

They report, you decide, and here’s more help:

Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist,” from 1903.

Malevich’s “Cow and Fiddle,” from 1913.

Chagall’s “Green Fiddler,” from 1913.

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One response to “No, I’m not from the shtetl, thank you.

  1. I don’t understand why Chagall gets attacked. No other famous painter does.

    When they dislike Chagall, they do not stand back and formulate clever phrases or quietly reflective phrases or ironical ones, as they do with Picasso — “he was no colorist” R.Hughes–, but they treat him as if morally there had been something really wrong with him.

    I am not a connoisseur, but Chagall is the only painter I really really love, with maybe El Greco sometimes and Miró, too, plus some limited souvenirs of most of the others. But like me there are many.
    ……………………………………………………………..

    You have a really beautiful reproduction of El Greco’s “Toledo” there.

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