One of my all-time favorite artists is Marc Chagall. His ever-present Slav spirit, his bold use of colors, the Fiddler, his angelic stained glass windows, and his charming eyes, especially as he aged. I had the chance to visit the Chagall museum in Nice. What struck me so deeply in exploring the twenty or so big paintings on display was a common theme: reconciling the good and the bad, the easy and the difficult, lightness and darkness, life and death, hope and despair. As regular readers of Dialogos will know, I feel that part of our challenge today is how to conjugate a life of hope and progress along with the imperfection and pain of our existence on Earth.
This painting, dated 1966, is titled Noah and the Rainbow [listen to the audioguide]. The rainbow, guided by an angel, connects the torments of the Jewish people in yellow on the bottom left with the serene happiness promised on the right, portrayed through familiar animals, naked women and a joyous crowd. The rainbow, presented in white, has its color distributed throughout the painting. The ellipse (which is also the shape of a rugby ball!) starts with the rainbow and continues through Noah resting on the bottom. It provides a tremendous harmony to the painting, all the while presenting what is a definitively difficult and messy world, especially evident when you zoom into the details in the background.
Rokus Cornelis, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Do any other paintings conjure up strong contemporary messages for you?
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This reminds me of something recently shared with us by our Parish Priest who spoke of the artwork on the floor in Italy’s Sienna Basilica - The Wheel of Divine Providence Luck, Chance, Fate - a mystery why some have blessings and some suffer - events of life, health, wealth, intellect, athletics, relationships, freedom, politics, work, home - the Wheel of Blessings and Deprivation and that the mystery of the wheel is taken into God’s mystery-plan. Cycles that everyone will experience at some point.
“how to conjugate a life of hope and progress along with the imperfection and pain of our existence on Earth”
Something I’m struggling a lot with these days. Thanks for articulating it so well.