Picks and Pans Review: Chagall's World: Reflections from the Mediterranean

updated 03/04/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/04/1985 01:00AM

by André Verdet

The painter Marc Chagall, 97, now rarely agrees to be interviewed or photographed. But in the spring of 1983 he opened the doors of his studio in St. Paul de Vence, near Nice, to French poet André Verdet and Rolling Stones bassist-amateur photographer Bill Wyman, who are his neighbors. The result of this friendly collaboration turns out to be disappointing. In a series of pretentious questions Verdet sets out to charm the reticent Chagall into lively conversation. But the old man replies to Verdet's effusions so simply that he makes his friend sound foolish. Gushes Verdet: "I sometimes imagine you endlessly wandering the countryside with a violin under your chin, like a Russian Orpheus of the East, with the beasts of the air and the earth following on behind." Chagall replies, "The poet is free to dream as he likes." Period. Chagall brightens when he talks of Giotto and Monet. He also tells Verdet that he's so self-critical he often hesitates before he signs a painting. But these little snippets cannot save the book. Since Wyman's photographs are undistinguished, this volume hardly does justice to the painter about whom Picasso once said, "He must have an angel in his head." (Dial, $30)

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