As a cosmopolitan hub and a symbol of modernity, Paris always had a strong influence on artists throughout the ages. Particularly during the early decades of the 20th century, the city, with its innumerous art galleries and cafes, held a magnetic attraction for artists from Eastern Europe.

In conjunction with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA), inspired by the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has organized an exhibition portraying the works of some of the most well-known artistic contemporaries of the era.


Self Portrait, 1914. Marc Chagall, French (born Belorussia), 1887 1985. Oil on cardboard, 11 1/2 x 10 1/8 inches (29.2 x 25.7 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

The exhibition titled Paris through the Window: Marc Chagall and his Circle will run from March 1-July 10, 2011 focusing on the works of around eleven artistic émigrés. This includes 40 paintings and sculptures by Marc Chagall and artists like Alexander Archipenko, Marc Chagall, Moïse Kisling, Jacques Lipchitz, Louis Marcoussis, Amedeo Modigliani, Chana Orloff, Jules Pascin, Margit Pogany, Chaim Soutine, and Ossip Zadkine.

Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle represents the Museum's contribution to this festival and will focus on the powerful influence that Paris had on Chagall and his contemporaries, said Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO of the Museum.

Truly enough, the influence of the city on avant garde artistic styles is phenomenal. This is the place where cross-fertilization of ideas and concepts took place, particularly during the era 1910s and 1920s when western art underwent its most experimental and innovative periods.

It was in 1911 that Moishe Shagal, popularly known as Marc Chagall arrived in Paris. Shortly after his arrival, Chagall assimilated rapidly the pictorial language of the most contemporary artistic styles of the day, especially Cubism, and married it with the artistic traditions of his native Russia.

La Ruche, located on the southwestern fringe of Montparnasse in Paris, gave Chagall the much needed space to explore his creative instincts. The three-storey high building was developed by the French sculptor Alfred Boucher and soon became the hub for thriving artists across the globe, the rent being minimal.

Chagall often used to describe the place as, In La Ruche, you either came out dead or famous.

La Ruche provided a large population of Eastern European artists a much-needed platform to experience the vibrant artistic interchanges that made Paris such an attractive place to live and work as well as unparalleled exhibition opportunities.

Among the other artists to live in or frequent La Ruche in the 1910s were Archipenko, Kisling, Lipchitz, Soutine, and Zadkine, who will be represented in the exhibition by two monumental sculptures in cedar wood that have not been displayed at the Museum since 1963.


Paris Through the Window (Paris par la fenêtre), 1913. Marc Chagall, French (born Belorussia), 1887 1985. Oil on canvas, 53 1/2 x 55 3/4 inches (135.9 x 141.6 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Taking center stage during the forthcoming exhibition will be Chagall's masterpiece Paris Through the Window presenting a kaleidoscopic impression of the city of Paris as seen from Chagall's studio window at La Ruche.

The painting is a special loan by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York supplementing the outstanding collection of modern painting and sculpture at the Phildelphia Museum of Art. The deployment of strong, non-naturalistic color in this painting reveals the influence of Chagall's friend Robert Delaunay, who developed a more colorful and poetic variant of Cubism known as Orphism.

A second important loan to the exhibition is the 1915 painting The Poet Reclining from the Tate Modern in London, which belongs to the same series of euphoric poet paintings as Half-Past Three (The Poet), which Chagall made four years earlier.

Image courtesy: The Philadelphia Museum of Art.