Chagall's Maternité


Marcel Arland (1899-1986) and Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Maternité (Motherhood) (Paris: Sans Pareil, 1926). Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process


Marc Chagall moved to Paris in 1923 and received several commissions for visual narratives, beginning with designs for Nikolai Gogol’s Die toten Seelen (The Dead Souls) in 1923 (printed in 1927 and published in 1950), followed by Maternité 1925-26, Les Sept péchés capitaux (The Seven Deadly Sins) in 1926, and the Fables of La Fontaine 1927-30. Many of the prints are drypoints, for which Chagall drew directly into a copper plate with a sharp needle.

Arland’s short story is a narrative told in reverse, beginning with the death of a young girl’s illegitimate baby and ending with the first night she and her lover spend together. The girl is vilified by her neighbors and Chagall’s first image shows her being taken away by the police as a crowd yells and shames her. Another plate shows the girl giving birth alone in her backyard among the chickens and empty crates.

Unfortunately, the popularity of Chagall’s prints has led many dealers to cut the book apart and sell the plates individually. To read more, see: Patrick Cramer, Marc Chagall: The Illustrated Books (Geneva: Patrick Cramer Publisher, 1995). Marquand (SA) ND689.C3 C725 1995q