A rare opportunity to see Marc Chagall’s illustrations for The Tempest in an exhibition exploring the play’s significance for the artist.
In Shakespeare’s last complete play, the exiled king, Prospero, gives up his magical powers and drowns his book. Many have taken this as symbolic of the end of Shakespeare’s own writing career, and when Marc Chagall, at the age of 88, produced the illustrations for the 1975 André Sauret edition, this in turn was interpreted as a personal farewell to art.
For the first time in the UK, 50 works from this limited edition portfolio are on display, exploring the interplay between the text and the artworks. In particular the exhibition focuses on the parallels between Chagall’s own experience as a refugee and the themes of exile and creativity in the story.
Leaving his home town in Russia to settle in Paris, Chagall was later forced out during the Nazi occupation and fled to the US in 1941. The ‘tempest’ of 20th century European Jewish history was a personal reality, and he might well have found its reflection in Shakespeare’s last work. How his poetic figurative style relates to Shakespeare’s aristocratic characters is also examined.