The ARTIST’S PRESENTATION AT THE INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM
ECOLE DE VITEBSK AND ITS ONGOING ECHO
By MICHAEL ROGATCHI (C).
Presentation at the ART & HUMANISM INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM, TEL-AVIV UNIVERSITY, TEL-AVIV, ISRAEL ( Excerpts)
June 15, 2019
Dear friends and colleagues,
I would like to invite you to imagine a picture and situation about 100 years ago – when talented Jewish artists, mostly from the Eastern Europe, wanted and tried to express themselves in the world beyond a shtetl.
The centre of freedom, possibilities, opportunities and new world for them was Paris. Paris was and has become a cosmos for them.
As we know, the name Ecole de Paris, was given to the group of the most talented artists by the French anti-Semitic art critics with a twist of irony. They wanted to make a joke at the expense of those defenseless bunch of foreign Jews in a tightening atmosphere of Paris in the second part of the 1930s.
In fact, the irony should be directed in the opposite direction, towards those critics. The group of the artists to which Marc Chagall, Chaim Soutine and the others belonged, it was a group of brilliant artists, very well educated and trained, very well prepared, real masters.
In my modest view, the true name of this group should be not Ecole de Paris, but Ecole de Vitebsk – because they all stayed loyal to their heart, their origin, our national history and our tradition which does have its miraculous quality: it is going on unbreakable for all these thousands of years, till today.
In this tradition, certain images are essential and irreplaceable.
When I saw Chagall’s works for the first time, his hens jumped into my mind.
My first reaction was: I saw these hens before. Where did I see them? – I thought. And then I realised that I saw them in my own house. The very same hens were drawn by my grand-mother.
Many years later, I saw these hens again. Those were drawn by the grand-mother of my wife.
To me, these Chagall and our both grand-mothers’ hens are real symbols of our life, our home, whenever we are: in Tel-Aviv, in New York, or in Paris.
When I saw the works of 18 Jewish artists at the remarkable exhibition on the returned to public art of the murdered artists from the Ecole de Paris, the exhibition in Haifa in the second part of 2018, resulting from a focused several years of effort, research and discoveries, I saw these hens again, in a symbolic way.
I saw our Jewish way of telling about our life and our people with love, gentleness, and unbounded humanism, does not matter what.
As far, as our devotion to the Jewish soul will be continued and will be present in our works, the works of the contemporary artists, our silver thread, both in artistic and in spiritual meaning, will be preserved. To me, it is the only way to create, to feel that thread un-thorn.