Wikipedia, The Free
Marc Chagall (Belarusian and Russian: Марк
Шага́л; his real name was Mojša Zacharavič Šahałaŭ / Мойша Захаравіч
Шагалаў) (July 7, 1887 – March 28, 1985) was a Russian-French painter
who was born in Belarus. Among the celebrated painters of the 20th
century, he is often associated with the Surrealist movement.
Born Moishe Segal (Russified Moishe Zakharovich
Shagalov) in Vitebsk, Belarus (then in the Russian Empire), Chagall was
the eldest of nine children in the close-knit Jewish family led by his
father, a herring merchant and his mother, Feiga-Ita. This period of
his life, described as happy though impoverished, appears in references
throughout Chagall's work.
Beginning to study painting in 1906 under famed local artist Yehuda
Pen, Chagall moved to St. Petersburg only a few months later in 1907.
There he joined the school of the Society of Art Supporters and studied
under Nikolai Roerich, encountering artists of every school and style.
From 1908-1910 he studied under Leon Bakst at Zvyagintseva School.
This period was difficult for Chagall — Jewish residents at the time
could only live in St. Petersburg with a permit, and he was jailed for
a brief time. Chagall remained in St. Petersburg until 1910, and
regularly visited his home village where in 1909 he met his future
wife, Bella Rosenfeld.
After becoming known as an artist, he left St. Petersburg to settle in
Paris in order to be near the art community of the Montparnasse
district, where he becomes a friend of Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert
Delaunay, and Fernand Léger. In 1914, he returned to Vitebsk and
a year later married his fiancé, Bella. World War I erupted
while Chagall was in Russia. In 1916, the Chagalls had a daughter, Ida.
Chagall became an active participant in the Russian Revolution of 1917.
The Soviet Ministry of Culture made him a Commissar of Art for the
Vitebsk region, where he founded an art school. He did not fare well
politically under the Soviet system. He and his wife moved to Moscow in
1920 and back to Paris in 1923.
With the German occupation of France during World War II, and the
deportation of Jews and the Holocaust, the Chagalls fled Paris. He hid
at Villa Air-Bel in Marseille and American journalist, Varian Fry
assisted his escape from France through Spain and Portugal. In 1941,
the Chagalls settled in the United States of America.
On September 2, 1944, his beloved Bella, the constant subject of his
paintings and companion of his life, died from an illness. Two years
later in 1946 he returned to Europe. By 1949 he was working in
Provence, France. During these intense years, he rediscovered the vital
energy of color, free and vibrant. His works of this period are
dedicated to themes inspired by love and the joy of life, with curved,
sinuous figures. He also began to work in sculpture, ceramics, and
Chagall remarried in 1952 to Valentina Brodsky. He traveled several
times to Greece, and in 1957 visited Israel, where in 1960 he created
stained glass windows for the synagogue of the Hadassah Ein Kerem
hospital in Jerusalem and in 1966, wall art for the new parliament
being constructed in that city.
He died at the age of 97 in Saint-Paul de Vence, France and was buried
at Saint-Paul Town Cemetery. His plot is the most westerly aisle upon
entering the cemetery.
Anyone that has visited Lincoln Center in New York City is familiar
with the huge mosaic murals in the lobby of the new Metropolitan Opera
House which opened in 1966.
In 1973, the Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall
(Chagall Museum) opened in Nice, France.
The museum in Vitebsk, which bears his name, was founded in 1997 in the
building where his family lived on 29 Pokrovskaia street — though until
his death, years before the fall of the Soviet Bloc, he was persona non
grata in his homeland. The museum only has copies of his work.
In 2005, musician Tori Amos recorded and released the composition
"Garlands," with lyrics inspired by a series of Chagall lithographs.
Art of Chagall
Chagall took inspiration from Belarusian folk-life, and portrayed many
Biblical themes reflecting his Jewish heritage. In the 1960s and 1970s,
Chagall involved himself in large-scale projects involving public
spaces and important civic and religious buildings.
Chagall's works fit into several modern art categories. He took part in
the movements of the Paris art world which preceded World War I and was
thus involved with avant-garde currents. However, his work always found
itself on the margins of these movements and emerging trends, including
Cubism and Fauvism. He was closely associated with the Paris School and
its expoenents, including Amedeo Modigliani.
His works abound with references to his childhood, yet often neglect
some of the turmoil which he experienced. He communicates to those who
view his works happiness and optimism by means of highly vivid colors.
Chagall often posed himself, sometimes together with his wife, as an
observer of the world — a colored world like that seen through a
stained-glass window. Some see The White Crucifixion, which abounds in
rich, intriguing detail, as a denunciation of the Stalin regime, the
Nazi Holocaust, and all oppression of the Jews.