Marc Chagall - Tales from the Arabian Nights
30 November 1999
The magical images that Chagall drew for the 1948 album inspired by the ‘Tales of the Arabian Nights’ were his first prints in the medium of multi-colour lithography.
Arriving in New York after fleeing France during World War 2 Chagall was very pleased to be commissioned by a French art publisher friend, Jacques Schiffrin, to draw lithographs for an album on the theme of the famous legendary ‘Tales from the Arabian Nights’.
Chagall immediately sensed that these images would need brilliant glowing colours which he did not know how to do in lithography. He was introduced to Albert Carman, a specialist New York printer in the medium, who taught him the technique. Chagall was thrilled by the range of tonalities and the vivacity that was possible in the medium – it was a thrill that remained with him for the rest of his artistic career.
The magnificent lithographs that he drew, his first in colour, remain amongst the most beautiful and admired in his whole oeuvre. They have a luminosity and richness of colour, a sense of the mysterious exoticism and of the evocative poetry of these stories from the ancient and mediaeval Middle Eastern world, which over time came together under the overall title of ‘Tales of a Thousand and One Arabian Nights’.