Biography – An Expressionist Painter

Chagall was born in Vitebsk, Russia (today’s Belarus) in 1887, as the son of a very religious Hasidic-Jewish family, under the name Moshe Segall. He was the eldest of 8 siblings and had a happy childhood. In the early years of his life, he was mostly influenced by Jewish traditions and Russian folklore, on trips to his grandfather’s farm. Meanwhile, he learned to play the violin, a traditional musical instrument of Russian-Jewish culture, there. His memories of his childhood and youth would later become repetitive themes in his art.

The Fiddler, 1912 by Marc Chagall

At the age of 20, he moved to St. Petersburg where he took painting lessons. He became interested in the pioneer painters of Paris such as Cézanne, Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec or Matisse. One of his client sent him to Paris for a short time, in 1910. He settled there for a year and then rented a studio in La Ruche with Modigliani and Soutine. In 1914, he returned to Vitebsk and the war (I. WW) forced him to stay in Russia until 1922. He founded a museum and an art school and created theatre settings there. He married Bella Rosenfeld in 1915 and their daughter Ida Chagall was born in 1916.

Representative Photo Russia, 1914

The family moved to Berlin in 1922, where Chagall made his first engravings (My Life, 1922) published by Cassirer. Soon after he received a telegram from his friend Blaise Cendrars saying, “Come back, you’re famous here (France) and Vollard is waiting for you” (Ambroise Vollard, one of the most important art sellers, 1866 – 1939).

My Life (Mein Leben), 1922 by Marc Chagall

In 1923 he moved with his family to Paris -where he called his second home- and opened a studio where he made several series of illustrations (Dead Souls by Gogol, Fables by La Fontaine and the Holy Bible) upon Vollard’s request. He becomes French citizen in 1937 and during this period he travels Europe and Middle East.

In 1941, another war(II. WW) forces him and his family to move New York where he designs several ballet settings and costumes. His beloved wife dies in 1944, that causes deep depression period for him. He stops painting for several months until met his second wife Virginia Haggard (until he married Valentina Brodsky in 1952), mother of his son David (born in 1946). David’s birth year, his career also accelerates. The MoMA (Museum Of Modern Art, NY) put together a retrospective of his work in 1946 and series of solo exhibitions were organized in Paris, Amsterdam, Bern, Zurich, in 1947.

He came back to France in 1948 and settled in Vence, South of France. He was famous worldwide. He met Pablo Picasso and started to work with Picasso’s art dealer Aimé Maeght. He was commissioned to create several big projects and the retrospectives of his work were numerous. The publisher Tériade asked him to illustrate with lithographies the book Daphnis et Chloé (An ancient Greek novel written in the Roman Empire by Longus) at the age of 65. Chagall decided to travel to Greece for inspiration. The work was published in 1961, illustrated by 42 lithographies.

Marc Chagall died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence on the 28th March 1985 at the age of 97. Chagall’s art is a clever mix of visible and invisible, of folklore and legends, of metaphors and symbols. It is an art which is timeless and singular.

Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers, 1913 by Marc Chagall
Lovers in Blue, 1914 by Marc Chagall
The Praying Jew, 1923 by Marc Chagall
A Wheatfield On A Summer’s Afternoon, 1942 by Marc Chagall
Madonna Of Village, 1942 by Marc Chagall
The Magician, 1968 by Marc Chagall
America Windows, 1977 by Marc Chagall

O.S. Tapsin

Resources: https://www.marcchagall.net

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