It's hard for me to remember the time before my eyes opened to the beauty and Inspiration of visual art, but for my first quarter-century, I would as soon have stared at a blank wall as at a painting. When the veil lifted, I almost immediately discovered Chagall and thrilled to his glorious "expressions of the inexpressible".
Chagall is the painter of lovers, of the primacy of the Spirit and the Imagination over human limitation. Though his canvasses were often of things or creatures our world has never literally seen, he was not a surrealist. Perhaps he is a kind of Surrealist of the Heart, though. Or maybe a Suprarealist! He painted the inner life that all of us live. I discovered a "juiciness" in his works. They were the kinds of things you wanted to get up in the morning just to see more of.
Ah, for those discoveries that someone has written, painted, played in music, some of the things one's own heart has always felt without knowing anyone else shared those feelings. These experiences help us to realize we are not alone.
It was Chagall's lot to be born into a world that was going up in flames. He lived through pogroms, World War I, the Russian Revolution, and World War II. He chronicled the massive suffering of his times. And yet, one feels joy when bringing Chagall to mind. One calls up pictures of flying chickens, of naked lovers with flowers--and yes, of a fiddler on the roof. This triumph and transmutation of the cruelty of the 20th century is one of Chagall's great achievements.