Marc Chagall and Lithography
Marc Chagall was introduced to original lithography by Fernand Mourlot, owner of the renowned Mourlot Atelier lithographic studio located in Paris, France. Marc Chagall worked closely with Master Printer Charles Sorlier and over the next 35 years, Chagall created over 1,000 original lithographs at the Atelier Mourlot. The partnership between Marc Chagall and Charles Sorlier was extremely fruitful. . Charles Sorlier advised Chagall on all his future color lithograph projects and supervised their printing at the Mourlot Studio:
“Marc Chagall fabricated a mystical world of lovers, musicians and artists in his work. Chagall chose lithography as a print medium that could offer him almost unlimited painterly freedom to explore this world. Since lithography is a technique where the artist can work directly on the printing plate or lithostone, the resultant prints convey the spontaneity of Chagall’s brushstrokes and drawn lines. Lithography also allowed Chagall to work in lush color, which he viewed as his métier, and for which Chagall has become renowned. Chagall’s lithographs are now among the most collected art works of the 20th century.”
– Charles Sorlier
While working with Charles Sorlier and Mourlot, Chagall completed many lithographic series including The Bible, The Story of Exodus, The Circus, Daphnis and Chloe and The Odyssey. Chagall used up to 25 different lithographic plates per print to achieve the perfect expression of color. Over the course of his lifetime, Marc Chagall continued to be fascinated with color lithography as a printmaking medium and retained the Mourlot Atelier and especially Charles Sorlier as his creative collaborators.
Marc Chagall and The Bible
Raised in a remote village in present day Belarus, Marc Chagall’s Jewish heritage proved to be one of the major influences in Marc Chagall’s Art. Chagall’s art is characterized by imagery drawn from the quaint Jewish village including animals from Chagall’s childhood, his strong family heritage, and the Jewish faith and practice. Chagall endeavored to express the spiritual meaning and moral messages found in Biblical teachings through his paintings, lithography, etchings, and original prints.
“Ever since my earliest youth I have been fascinated by the Bible. The Bible is the echo of nature, and this I have endeavored to transmit. . . . In art everything is possible, so long as it is based on love.” – Marc Chagall
In 1966, Marc Chagall created a series of original lithographs depicting the biblical Story of the Exodus. The Story of Exodus portfolio contained 24 large color lithographs. 23 of The Story of Exodus Lithographs were printed on paper measuring 50 x 37 cm and the last original print was created as a double-size plate with a centerfold. The Story of Exodus was created in a limited edition consisting of 285 portfolios signed on the justification page by Marc Chagall: 250 on Velin d’Arches numbered from 1 to 250; 20 on Japon Nacre paper; and 15 hors commerce (not for sale) lettered A to O reserved for project collaborators.
The name Exodus means “going out” or “departure”. It refers not only to one of the most important events of the book Exodus (the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt), but also to other highly significant events as well, such as the call of Moses and God’s covenant with the nation Israel at Sinai – an experience culminating in God’s giving of the moral law (Ten Commandments) through Moses to the people. Portraying one of the most important stories of The Old Testament, and one of the central figures in the Jewish faith, Chagall’s Story of Exodus is a brilliant series with vivid color illuminating the spiritual and emotional nature of the story.
Often Marc Chagall would travel to foreign countries for inspiration for his artwork. Prior to creating The Story of Exodus, Chagall made a personal and spiritual journey to Palestine and present day Israel. Chagall wanted to experience the land and culture of the birthplace of Judaism. Chagall’s time spent in the Middle East influenced all of his biblically themed works, including the Exodus Series as well as the Bible Series.
“I saw the hills of Sodom and the Negev, out of whose defiles appear the shadows of our prophets in their yellowish garments, the color of dry bread. I heard their ancient words. . . . Have they not truly and justly shown in their words how to behave on this earth and by what ideal to live?” – Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall’s illustrations of The Story of Exodus are magnificent examples of Chagall’s masterful use of vibrant color to create lush depth, texture and emotion. The Exodus lithographs were highly acclaimed at their time of release and remain one of Chagall’s most popular series due to their expert use of color and fervent imagery.
“Changes in societal structure and in art would possess more credibility if they had their origins in the soul and spirit. If people read the words of the prophets with closer attention, they would find the keys to life.”
– Marc Chagall