New tapestry continues Chicago's love affair with artist Chagall

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Long the nation's second city and now its third in population, Chicago is aiming for first place as home for the works of artist Marc Chagall. When the late French artist's last commissioned work is received next fall -- a tapestry based on a biblical passage in the book of Job -- Chicago is expected to become the only United States city to have three major Chagall works.

In 1974 the colorful, outdoor ``Four Seasons'' mosaic in the First National Bank plaza was unveiled here with the artist bestowing a kiss on the cheek of Mayor Richard J. Daley.

Three years later, the artist, who grew up in a Russian Jewish ghetto donated ``America Windows,'' a series of stained glass panels with a cobalt blue background, to Chicago's Art Institute as a memorial to Mayor Daley, who had passed on the year before.

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There is no official Chicago City Hall involvement in the quest for a third major work for the city. It is simply a measure of Chagall's widespread popular appeal.

Vivian Jacobson, a longtime Chagall admirer who is a teacher and lecturer on swimming, met the artist and his wife at the dedication for the mosaic. It was the start of an 11-year friendship.

Mrs. Jacobson, who is Jewish and who chatted with the artist in Yiddish, was fond of his Old Testament pieces, particularly the tapestry based on Chagall's drawing of the prophet Jeremiah which hangs in a Jewish community center in Milwaukee. She knew it was the only Chagall tapestry in the US, one of 10 in the world, and began to dream of bringing another to Chicago.

While in Vence, France, for Chagall's 95th birthday party in 1982, Mrs. Jacobson happened to meet Dr. Henry Betts, a vice-chairman of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. In conversation he mentioned he would like to have a Chagall work for that building's lobby. Mrs. Jacobson, seizing the opportunity, replied, ``I'll get one for you.''

Chagall was receptive despite to her idea even though compensation would have to be on a no-down-payment, installment basis.

``It's an American capitalistic way of doing things, but it was a first for the French -- he agreed because he loved Chicago,'' she said.

Mrs. Jacobson, who has since seen the drawing and is closely following the progress of the weaving with color-coded yarn by Paris artist Yvette Caquil-Prince, quite agrees. Once back in the US she gathered 33 acquaintances into a Friends of the Chagall Tapestry Committee to try to raise the necessary $175,000.

``We all love art, but none of us are wealthy in our own right,'' she says.``It's a people project -- we call ourselves Camp Chagall.''

So far, she reports, some $70,000 has been raised from 300 donors who have given from such distant spots as California and Italy.

The tapestry will be called ``Hope'' and hung next October. It's theme is based on lines from Chapter 14 of Job: ``For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.''

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