Local artist and teacher, Sarah K..." /> Chagall Piece Inspires Lessons at Local Art Studio – French Quarter Magazine

Art & Culture

Published on January 14th, 2016 | by Kirsten King


Chagall Piece Inspires Lessons at Local Art Studio

Local artist and teacher, Sarah King, is rounding out a year of studies in French painting by focusing on Marc Chagall, whose artwork will act as a frame of reference for starter motifs. “The students at King Art Studio, especially the ones who have taken lessons here since we opened, are no strangers to the French masters,” says King. Having analyzed the techniques of artists including Rousseau, Monet, Gauguin, and Matisse, students will be examining Chagall through December. 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Chagall’s The Birthday, an occasion which has helped persuade King to make Chagall a final subject of study for her students this year. “Chagall’s art has always affected me. I have his work hanging in my home and office… Chagall is a storyteller, and what he has to tell in The Birthday to me is one of his most beautiful stories.” This painting recalls a labor of love undertaken by Chagall’s intended, Bella Rosenfeld, to make the artist’s birthday in 1915 so special. After some difficulty in ascertaining his date of birth, Bella was able to pay a visit to Chagall on that day, bringing with her a meal and flowers neatly wrapped in embroidered shawls. The shawls were used to adorn the artist’s room, and Chagall enjoyed his gifts as he painted the event now vividly preserved in The Birthday. That Chagall would want so much to relive the experience over and over again, immediately transferring to the canvas at hand, this blissful moment being etched on his memory is a testament to his appreciation of Bella’s thoughtful endeavor and the adoration the two lovers felt for each other. The couple was married only three weeks later.  

King and Gracie V

King and Gracie V. Photo by Kirsten King.

“Chagall delights in fantasy and all of his art tells a story… those are elements I really want to come through in our student’s own work during this period,” says King. “I felt that… the students could relate to and, more importantly, would better enable them to express more emotion in their pieces.” King believes that many students in Las Vegas do not often have the time or means to “tell their stories fully” in a typical school setting. “A lot of parents and students themselves will tell you… the school district suffers from a diminishing emphasis on the arts and a lack of supplies… we are here to help make up for that.” King also feels that such a pursuit is preferable in a studio setting, as opposed to large group instruction offered in her other enterprise. “It’s always a good time and our attendees will leave with something gorgeous… the reality is that what emerges from a couple hours at a painting party won’t necessarily have the same kind of individuality and personal development that happens with regular, ongoing lessons… that’s why the Chagall storytelling projects are so near and dear to my heart right now,” King says.

Eva's and Leyla's stories

Eva’s and Leyla’s stories. Photo by Kirsten King.

While the scene depicted in The Birthday demonstrates romantic love, at least two artists at the King Art Studio are concentrating on familial affection, Eva Ensthaler and her daughter, Leyla. Eva’s work in progress, Us, tells the story of her and her child, looking back on a time when Leyla was only three. “I wanted to express the love that I felt for [Leyla], the connection between us, the innocence in that moment…she had just woken up from a nap, and she was looking out at the world…I wanted to capture her vulnerability and me protecting her,” says Ensthaler. The piece, a kind of snapshot portrait of the two, is similar in parental tenderness to Chagall’s painting of his own wife and child, Bella and Ida at the Window (1916). Leyla, now six, has also created an image about the bond between her and her mother. This painted narrative imagines the two of them at play in a pastoral setting. Leyla explains, “I think that is something I would like us to do.” Leyla’s piece is one that combines the techniques she has learned, demonstrated in some of her impressionistic brushwork, and shows a remarkable aptitude for her age.

Eva and Leyla at work

Eva and Leyla at work. Photo by Kirsten King.

While King encourages her students to make the most of their studio hours, she also promotes practice at home. “I’d like to think that our students go the extra mile when they can because it can only benefit their artistic progress.” For students who might not have the same supplies at home or simply prefer to realize their work at the studio, King supports further reading and reflection after a lesson. “I really enjoy getting into the art history side of things with our students and I know that many of them, in addition to exploring their own talents independently, take it upon themselves to research a featured artist or piece… they know they are welcome to the books I have in the studio, although many of those are geared towards college-level readers,” King says. Dreamer from the Village: The Story of Marc Chagall and Marc Chagall: Life is a Dream are two books better suited to the interests of a younger audience. These titles are recommended by King, who explains that both books call attention to essential facts about the artist and his career by telling Chagall’s life in a form similar to a fairy tale. “I like these books even as an adult because they cover biographical points about Chagall through an emphasis on dreaming and storytelling…and no matter who or what you’re learning about, that’s what art is, that’s what life is.”

About the Author


is a keen traveler, currently interested in cultural studies. She has been teaching locally and abroad since 2006. Participating in French Quarter Magazine allows her to contribute to the sharing of culture and knowledge between our two countries - a joyful and exciting adventure.

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