A Farewell to Art, Ben Uri Gallery: Chagall’s fantasy figures show we are what dreams are made of

PUBLISHED: 16:00 08 November 2017




Marc Chagall’s scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest can be seen at A Farewell To Art: Chagall, Shakespeare and Prospero at the gallery in Boundary Road

chagall chagall

Infused with his lifelong fascination with fantasy and illusion, Marc Chagall’s scenes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest can be seen at St John’s Wood’s Ben Uri Gallery this month.

Produced when the artist was 88, the rare lithographs depict magical scenes such as Aerial summoning the storm, and the lovers Miranda and Ferdinand surrounded by mythical creatures playing sweet airs on “a thousand twangling instruments”.

A Farewell To Art: Chagall, Shakespeare and Prospero at the gallery in Boundary Road explores the notion that the artist saw in Shakespeare’s play of betrayal, exile, redemption and retirement a reflection of the traumatic upheaval in his own life.

Born Moishe Segal in 1887 in what is now Belarus, Chagall moved to Paris aged 23 where he became influenced by modernism and cubism.

chagall chagall

But after being caught in his home town of Vitebsk during World War I he was unable to return to his adopted city until 1923.

Then, at the start of World War II, Chagall and his family were once more trapped, this time in Vichy France where Jewish residents were being deported East by the Nazis.

Placed on a list of prominent artists who needed rescue, he was smuggled out of the country in 1941 and lived in New York until 1948. However he returned to live on the Cote D’Azur until his death at the age of 97.

“It would be perfectly understandable if he compared himself to the exiled Prospero,” says exhibition curator Hanna Scolnicov.

chagall chagall

She also believes that just as Prospero famously breaks his magic staff and renounces “rough magic”, these illustrations can be interpreted as the ageing Chagall’s own farewell to his frenetic artistic output on large scale projects.

The exhibition is the first time these 50 rare illustrations - first published in 1975 for a version of the play by Editions Andre Sauret - have been seen in the UK. In them, Chagall’s own imaginary mythological world and love of fantasy shine through. The artist once called himself “a dreamer that never woke up” and said: “Even in my twenties I preferred dreaming about love and painting it in pictures.”

A Farewell To Art runs at Ben Uri Gallery until February 11, 2018. benuri.org. Entrance free.

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

FA Women’s Super League 2: Millwall Lionesses 4 Tottenham Hotspur Ladies 1


Tyrells Premier 15s: Saracens 105 Worcester Valkyries 0


Two men from Camden have been charged with the murder of model Harry Uzoka.

Yesterday, 22:50

Arsenal’s U23s produced an electric display to thrash Manchester United’s U23 side on Monday night, with Konstantinos Mavropanos making a solid first appearance in red and white amongst a strong Gunners team.

A strong Arsenal U23 side eased past a young Manchester United U23 side at Meadow Park on Monday evening. Read Layth Yousif’s player ratings as new first team signing Konstantinos Mavropanos made his first start for the club with hot-shot starlet Eddie Nketiah grabbing a brace as they joined a number of players who impressed.

Yesterday, 21:38

Bostik North: Haringey Borough 1 (Yiga 90) Hornchurch 2 (Fairweather-Johnson 10, McKenzie 87)

Yesterday, 17:00

Everton boss reflects on 4-0 thrashing away to Tottenham Hotspur and concedes he should have been more boring

Yesterday, 16:18

Thirty nine new two and three-bedroom homes, influenced by the Arts and Crafts architecture of the area, have been launched in Hampstead.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now