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December 01, 1978 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-12-01

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Friday, December 1, 1978


Local Artist Max Shaye Calls New Marc Chagall Book `Superb'

(Editor's Note: Max
Shaye, the reviewer of
the Chagall book, has at-
tained eminence as an ar-
tist whose works are on
display in art institutes
and many important pub-
lic buildings. He is an
active Detroit community
leader, having served,
among many other
capacities, as general
chairman of the Allied
Jewish Campaign.)


When Marc Chagall
(originally Segal) was asked
why he painted the soldier's
face green, he replied "Why
In a superb new biog=
raphy of the 91-year-old,
("Marc -Chagall" -Putnam
and Sons), last great master
of the 20th Century art,
Sidney Alexander records
the life of Chagall starting
in Vitebsk up to present-day
St. Paul de Vence. It is an
exciting novel-type story.
It traces Chagall's early
years in czarist Russia Vit-
ebsk; his apprenticeship as
an artist in St. Petersburg;
his fledgling years in the
Montmartre where he met
Modigliani, Soutine,
Picasso and a host of others;
his return to Russia where
after the Revolution he was
made Commissar of Fine
Arts; and his return to
"Paris, where he exited just
in time to escape the Ger-
mans. Finally, in New York
he joined the exiles Mond-


rian, Leger, Lifschitz and
Throughout his career,
he retained the imagery
that stayed with him from
his earliest years in Vit-
ebsk. An example would
be the cows that ap-
peared in his work. His
grandfather was a
"shohet" and young
Chagall often visited the
cattle "waiting for
Zayda." Chagall retained
vivid memories of those
cows as well as the chic-
kens and goats that were
such a great part of shtetl
Chagall felt that color
had nothing whatever to do
with nature. His color often
relates to a world not seen
by the eye. "Blue is not a
color, but a state of soul," he
Once during Sukkot his
zeide disappeared, and was
discovered later on top of

the roof where he had died suddenly in New
climbed. "Not bad for a York at age 53.
painting" Chagall remarks.
During this period,
How many bearded Jews on Chagall's work suffered a
rooftops inhabit his painted serious relapse. His one
world! His many aunts, he child Ida was especially
describes in his "My Life" helpful to him. It was Ida
were constantly flying who found a young English
through the markets, woman to serve as his
"winged like angels." Again housekeeper.
and again, uncles and aunts
Virginia McNeil was un-
and members of his family
reappear in his paintings. happily married and soon
His is strongly wedded to became Chagall's lover. She
his cultural roots in the became pregnant with his
child. A boy, David, was
Russian ghetto.
Unlike Picasso, Chagall born. She lived with him for
has not gone through shar- seven years but suddenly
ply differentrated phases. left him one day. She felt
His work has been essen- that living with Chagall at
tially unmodified in image, this high point in his career
form and color, from his ear- was comparable to living
liest work to the present. To with an institution. She just
some critics this represents couldn't cope with it.
His present wife of 20
an artistic limitation. To
the writer of this biography years, Valentina, is in full
it is a reaffirmation of an charge of Chagall's career -
looking after him and man-
immense talent.
The book gives many aging his affairs.
small interesting details The relationship be-
about Chagall. His first tween Chagall and
teacher was Jehude Pen; Picasso was interesting.
his first sale in 1910 was It was pure jealousy. In
to one Venaver of two their latter years they re-
paintings for 40 rubles. fused to see each other. "I
His first love and wife, don't know where he gets
Bella Rosenfeld, came those images" Picasso
from a wealthy jewelry- said of Chagall. "I think
store owning family. he's a genius, if only he
(Chagall's father worked could paint," Chagall
unloading herring said of Picasso. The
barrels.) Bella was the in- Spaniard was especially
spiration for his paint- irked when the Russian
ings of brides, floating or "took up" pottery at Val-
otherwise. She was his auris which Picasso felt-
life-long love, his man- was his own special
ager, his "neshoma." She preserve.

'Munich in M i ddle East' Reviews U.S. Policy


Dr. Peter Kirsch,
novelist and non-fiction
writer, authored the timely
volume "Munich in the
Middle East" (Shengold).
The "foreword" by jour-
nalists M. Brannan and W.
Mehlman presents the
thesis that had Israel at the
time of its establishment
opted for Moscow instead of
the West its existence would
have been secure, as all of
Russia's friends are "safe
and snug."
Whether this thesis is
correct or not is a moot ques-
tion. It is true as Dr. Kirsch
notes in his "introduction"
that the Soviets support Is-
rael's Arab neighbors prin-
cipally to create "tension in
the region to keep the var-
ious players in need of arms
and thus maintain and ul-
timately strengthen its
foothold in the region."
A number of books
have appeared in recent
years that trace Arab
hostility toward the
Jewish people to the Ko-
ran. Dr. Kirsch agrees
with their view and
points out that in 1066 the

Jews of Granada were
slaughtered by Arabs; in
1305 in Egypt synagogues
were destroyed; in
Morocco pogroms oc-
curred in 1670, 1789, 1859,
and 1863; in 1840, the
Damascus Blood Libel
was followed by the mur-
der of scores of Jews.
The author also recalls
that the Grand Mufti of
Jerusalem encouraged and
assisted Hitler in the ex-
termination of European
Jews. Likewise, the Pales-
tinian National Covenant
adopted by the First Pales-
tinian Congress in 1964 and
, re-affirmed four years later
is the result of the Koran-
inspired enmity toward
The war of 1948,
moreover, intensified this
feeling of hatred and added
to it a new dimension: "The
shame-revenge syndrome."
The author believes that
this syndrome is the chief
reason for the indiscrimi-
nate Arab terrorist attacks
within and outside Israel.

Dr. Kirsch is greatly con-
cerned about Israel's inter-

nal dynamics, especially its of the loss of 20 million citi-
economic, social, cultural, zens."
and religious problems. He - - The author recounts the
notes that Israel's system of tragic history of the U.S..
proportional representation with respect to the refugees
leads to a coalition govern- from Nazism, and reminds
ment. This "implies the us of FDR's disappointing
necessity of compromise and evasive attitude
that restricts the freedom of • towards Hitler's victims.
action of the administra-
Similarly, his policy ,"re-
tion, thus weakening it."
garding Zionism and the
Furthermore, Israel's Arabs was a matter of con-
economic dependence on tradictions, hypocricy,
the U.S., Dr. Kirsch as- doubletalk, and promises to
serts, limits its freedom to one side coupled with de-
maneuver and affects its nials and counterpromises
security. Had it not been to the other." .
The author describes in
for this dependence, Is-
rael's victory in 1973, a compelling manner the
would have been com- developments leading to
the recognition of Israel's
independence by
Other factors contribut- President Harry S. Tru-
ing to Israel's internal man, and delineates the
weakness, the author ob- U.S. policies toward Is-
serves, are the discords be- rael following its estab-
tween the religionists and' lishment.
secularists, the clashes be-
Inter alia, he states, "A
tween the Oriental and Oc- President's Middle East
cidental Jews, the never policies at times conflict
ending strikes, and the with those of State and De-
emigration of numerous fense and at times coincide.
Jews from Israel. According When the latter state of af-
to the author, "Israel has fairs obtains, it always
lost one-tenth of its popula- bodes ill for Israel" because
tion . . . To relate this to "the essence of American
America it is the equivalent policy is appeasement of the
This policy of appease-
ment, the author concludes,
has failed. He proposes that
instead of appeasing the
Arabs,- the U.S. declare
"that the auspices al•e
favorable for Arab ap-
peasement of one single
American whim — the ces-
sation of agression against


Alexander singles out
Chagall for criticism for his
failure to express himself
about the persecution of
Soviet Jewry when he made
his highly publicized 1973
trip to Russia as guest of the
Soviets after 50 years of
exile. In an interview by
Newsweek Chagall was
asked if he considered him-
self, a Russian-Jewish
painter. His reply, "In art
there is no nationalism.
Russia is still in my heart.
But without France I would
not be Chagall." Alexander
wryly observes in his book:
"Curiously the Jewish com-

ponent of the troika is mis-
It also is interesting to
note Chagall's great disap-
poinSment in the placement
of his windows at the
Hadassah Hospital
Synagogue in Jerusalem.
He felt the architectural
background was inferior.
In reading this biog-
raphy, I found it neces-
sary to have a book of
Chagall's painting
alongside. It's espec:.
frustrating to read a de-
tailed account of how or
why he created a paint-
ing without being able to
see the painting itself, al-
though the book does
have about a dozen excel-
lent photographs of
Chagall and his family.
The flying brides, green
cows, flying goats, flowers
and lovers that populate
Chagall's paintings reflect a
concept of art that is the
language of emotion. His
work, both sophisticated
and- rnfantile has the charm
and power of genius, which
soars over the art sky like
the "luft-menschen" in his

Four Suits Better Than Two
or Clothes Make the Man

(Copyright 1978, JTA, Inc.)

Say what you will, Israel
is a strange land.
Imagine a country whose
chief of state has only two
We are referring to
Menahem Begin.
How could such a man be
chosen prime minister?
Suppose he spills some soup
on his suit and the other suit
is at the tailor and some
foreign diplomat arrives,
what does he do? Show him-
self in his pajamas?
That might create an
international incident. In
fact, it almost did in the
early days of America
when Thomas Jefferson,
half clad, received the
British ambassador who
felt greatly offended.
Fortunately war was av-
Really though in the case
of Begin, it is not so bad. For
on becoming prime minis-
ter, Begin bought two more -
suits, so now he has four
suits, so even if he spills
soup on two suits and one
suit is at the tailor, he will
have a suit left. We found
out all about this reading a
story in the New York Post.
The headline running
across the page read:
The writer, the news
correspondent Dial Torger-
son in Jerusalem, goes on to
say that Begin is "the
poorest head of government
in the developed world." Be-
fore becoming prime minis-
ter, we are told that Begin
lived in a dark two-room
apartment on Rosenbaum
Street in Tel Aviv. He did
make a little money when

he wrote his book about the
Irgun in the War for Inde-
pendence, but he gave the
money to the men of Irgun
who had been wounded in
the war — just as he is giv-
ing the Nobel Prize money
to charity.
The Begin story recalls
the case of Sam Adams, the
man who is known "as the
father of the American
Revolution." Old Sam didn't
have much in the way of
clothes either.
Adams was the man who
led the Boston Tea Party
which dumped the British
tea into Boston harbor. You
might call Adams the
leader of the American Ir-
gun. The British went look-
ing for Adams as they did
more recently for Begin. In
fact, it was when the British
went looking for Adams
that there occurred the
opening battle of the
American Revolution —
"the shot heard around the
world" as the poet called it.
Like Begin, Adams
didn't have much money.
He ran a little malt shop
but he spent little time
there. - His real business
was fighting for in
pendence. He wasn't
proud to wear the °id
clothes of his friends.
I said Begin now has four
uits. Well, the fact is one
d ay the clothing picture of
Adams changed too. It hap-
ened this way. The Conti-
n ental Congress was about
t o meet and his friends
bought old Sam ought to
1 ook nice.
So it was when Adams
bowed up in Philadelphia
or the Congress which was
o declare independence, old
S am looked like a new man.
Y ou could hardly recognize
h im — the same way as
B egin with his four suits.

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