Bella and Marc Chagall, sketchbook, 1942-1965
Photograph Sotheby’s

I have always been a big fan of Marc Chagall, as much the artist as the man. I find his large-scale works particularly impactful including the murals for the Metropolitan Opera House (1966), the ceiling of the Paris Opera (1964) and the sets and costumes for The Firebird (1945). Chagall’s life and art were inextricably intertwined which is, of course, clearly evident in his work — especially his deep love for his wife and muse, Bella. Chagall: Love, War and Exile at The Jewish Museum is a brilliant testament to this, and an exhibition very much worth seeing. Among the vast number of beautifully chosen paintings, works on paper, photographs and ephemera on view, there is one piece I continue to really think about. In 1942, when Bella and Marc fled Paris for New York during World War II, she started to translate poems from French to Yiddish in a hardcover sketchbook. Upon her unexpected death just two years later, the artist began to illustrate the book, no doubt as a way to stay connected to her. He continued to do so for the next twenty years. His adoration and reverence for Bella exudes from simply the two facing pages on display and I cannot think of a more intimate or loving gesture. 

Chagall: Love, War and Exile runs through February 2, 2014.