Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 27 July 2012 00:00
I thoroughly enjoyed viewing the Marc Chagall exhibit at the Nassau County Museum of Art for this week’s cover story. Chagall’s whimsical style may not be to everyone’s tastes, but he was definitely unique, and the optimism on display in many of his paintings is infectious. All this I expected, however I was surprised to discover how amateurish a lot of his figure drawing appeared to be.
Now, before I’m tarred and feathered by a wandering cabal of art historians, let me clarify what I mean. A lot of great artists were capable of drawing detailed, correctly proportioned figures and simply chose not to; Matisse immediately comes to mind. The fact that some of Chagall’s subjects don’t feature realistic anatomy doesn’t mean that the artist was incapable of drawing at a high level of realism, had he wanted to.
However, realistic anatomy obviously wasn’t important for the emotions that Chagall was trying to portray; sometimes a simple figure, hastily sketched and bobble-headed, can have more life to it than the most technically competent drawing. That doesn’t mean that learning to draw realistically isn’t a worthwhile goal, but it isn’t always necessary.
For me, this was eye-opening. If Chagall can get away with arms that are completely circular where the elbow joint should be, we don’t all need to be technically perfect artists to have something to contribute. There’s no minimum level of experience or talent necessary to pick up a pencil or a paintbrush and create something worthwhile, and I don’t see how it could ever be too late to start.