Art: Magical Modernist

An irresistible retrospective in San Francisco restores respect for Marc Chagall

Sometimes it doesn't pay to be too popular. By the time of his death in 1985, at age 97, Marc Chagall was suburbia's favorite genius. He offered modernism without tears, without the headaches of Cubism or the thin air of abstraction. For middle-class Jews, he was also the chronicler of the world of their fathers, the poet of that lost, enchanted universe. By the mid-1960s, when Fiddler on the Roof took its title from one of Chagall's best-known motifs, his popular reputation was at its peak. But in the eyes of an art world that had always been a little unconvinced...

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