Left to right, Jo Pittman, Magdalina Ilies, Gabriela Oprea-Ilies and Dan Oprea admire Chagall’s work.

A sunny afternoon the first week of fall provided the ideal backdrop for the launching of a new exhibition at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. “Chagall: The Early Etchings of the 1920s” includes 65 etchings and five colored lithographs by Russian-French painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985). The exhibition opened on Sept. 24 and will be in display through Dec. 11.

“These high-quality etchings illustrate many of the didactic fables of French poet Jean de La Fontaine, and the satirical stories of Russian dramatist Nikolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls,” said Lloyd Nick, the museum’s director.

“This is the best museum in town,” said museum member Sandy Murray. “You can’t beat the price or the atmosphere for this type of culture.”

Murray said she has admired Chagall’s work because he shows ordinary working people in his compositions.

“Many of these prints are satirical representations of life in Russia and the social injustice during Chagall’s time,” said Jo Pittman. “The Dead Souls refer to those who worked the land for their landlords—it was a form of slavery.”

Disillusioned by his homeland, Chagall arrived in Paris shortly before World War I. He returned to Russia briefly, but came back to France on the heels of the Russian Revolution of 1917. He joined other disillusioned artists, including some from America, who moved to France in the early 1920s. “France was the world’s center for the arts,” said Gabriela Oprea-Ilies. “It was the place to be and support the emergence of modern art.”

Atlanta artist David Swann said he has seen Chagall’s work exhibited in Paris. “Paris presented a way to escape during the 1920s,” Swann said.

Now, a new generation is discovering his work. Bianca Weber, 8, one of the youngest members of the Oglethorpe museum community, is an artist in the making.

“I draw every day,” she said. A 1969 lithograph titled “Spring” is her favorite piece in the exhibition. “I like all the flowers, the colors and the moon,” she said.

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