Marc Chagall Paintings, Bio, Ideas – The Art Story

Biography of marc chagall

summary by marc chagall

Marc Chagall’s poetic and figurative style made him one of the most popular modern artists, while his long life and varied output made him one of the most internationally recognized. While many of his colleagues carried out ambitious experiments that often led to abstraction, Chagall’s distinction lies in his steadfast faith in the power of figurative art, a faith he maintained despite absorbing ideas from the Fauvism and Cubism. Born in Russia, Chagall moved to France in 1910 and became a leading figure within the so-called École de Paris. He then spent time in the United States and the Middle East, trips that reaffirmed his self-image as an archetypical “wandering Jew”.


  • Chagall worked in many radical modernist styles at various points throughout his career, including cubism, suprematism, and surrealism, all of which possibly encouraged him to work in a completely abstract style. however, he rejected each one in succession, remaining committed to figurative and narrative art, which made him one of the foremost exponents of the more traditional approach of the modern period.
  • chagall’s jewish identity was important to him throughout his life, and much of his work can be described as an attempt to reconcile ancient jewish traditions with modern art styles. however, he also occasionally resorted to Christian themes, which appealed to his taste for narrative and allegory.
  • in the 1920s, the emerging surrealists claimed that chagall was a kindred spirit, and although he borrowed from them, he ultimately rejected their more conceptual subject matter. However, a dreamlike quality is characteristic of almost all of Chagall’s work; as the poet and critic guillaume apollinaire once said, chagall’s work is “supernatural”.
  • the life of marc chagall

    important art by marc chagall

    biography of marc chagall


    Marc Chagall was the eldest of nine children born to Khatskl Shagal and Feige-ite in the settlement of the city of Liozna, near Vitebsk, an area with a high concentration of Jews. Raised in a Hasidic family, Chagall attended local Jewish religious schools—mandatory for Russian Jews during this time, as discrimination policies prohibited the mixing of different racial groups—where he studied Hebrew and the Old Testament. Such teachings would later inform much of the content and motifs of Chagall’s paintings, engravings, and stained glass windows.

    During his school days, Chagall adopted the habit of drawing and copying pictures from books, which quickly turned into a love of art and the choice to pursue it as a career, a decision that did not please his parents. In 1906 Chagall began tutelage of her with the famous Russian portrait artist Yehuda Pen, who ran an all-Jewish private school in Vitebsk for drawing and painting students. Although grateful for the free formal instruction, Chagall left the school after several months.

    that same year chagall moved to st. Petersburg to continue his studies at the Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting, where he briefly apprenticed with artist and set designer Leon Bakst. Bakst, a devout Jew, is believed to have encouraged Chagall to introduce Jewish imagery and themes into his work, a practice that was unpopular at the time, especially given the hostility of the Russian Empire towards religion.

    initial period and training

    chagall moved to paris in 1910, just as cubism was emerging as the main avant-garde movement. At the impressionable age of 23 and not speaking French, Chagall aligned himself with Cubism and enrolled in classes at a small art academy. In early paintings such as The Poet, or Half-Thirty Three and I and the People (both 1911), Chagall is clearly adopting the forms abstractions and dynamic compositions that characterize much of Cubism, but he came to reject the more academic leanings of the movement, infusing his work with touches of humor, emotion, and joyful color.

    While in Paris, Chagall held his hometown of Vitebsk close to his heart, often using themes of memory in his paintings. subjects included scenes of pastoral villages, weddings, and fiddlers playing on rooftops. In many of the images, the figures appear to float freely in the sky, signatures of Chagall’s lyrical and melancholic love for his home far away.

    parisian scenes also found their way into chagall’s repertoire, with paintings such as les fiancüs de la tour eiffel and paris through the window (both 1913), that recall the work of henri matisse, and chagall’s friend, robert delaunay. As a complement to these elements, his work contained almost supernatural qualities that are considered key precursors of Surrealism.

    period of maturity

    During one of his brief visits to Russia during this time, Chagall fell in love with and became engaged to Bella Rosenfeld, who became the subject of many of his paintings, including Beauty in a White Collar ( 1917). In 1914, Chagall returned to Vitebsk via Berlin (where he enjoyed a well-received exhibition of some 200 works at the Sturm Gallery, all of which he would never recover), with plans to marry Bella and later return to Paris. The two were married, but the outbreak of World War I that same year halted their plans to return to Paris, and for the next nine years, Chagall and his wife would remain in Russia.

    Not long after the outbreak of the war, the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 occurred, an event that essentially forced Chagall to remain in Russia and propelled him to the political post of Commissar of Arts for Vitebsk, a position that allowed him to open The Important People’s Art School in 1918. The school attracted instructors Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky. A brief period of innovation followed, but it ended first with the departure of Chagall (who felt betrayed and dominated by the charismatic Malevich), and then with the closure of the school in 1922. In the early 1920s, Chagall exhibited some new paintings in moscow and st. Petersburg, but his overall work ethic and his pace slowed due to the tense weather.

    after surviving for a few years, chagall and bella saved enough money to return to paris in 1923. at the time, chagall’s name had some hiding place in modern art circles, giving him the opportunity to travel around Europe and the Mediterranean. In particular, Chagall formed a friendship with the merchant Ambroise Vollard, who commissioned him to draw and paint multiple religious scenes from the Old Testament and similar sources. In addition to Chagall’s Jewish-themed works such as Green Violinist (1923-24) and Dancing Mirjam (1931), he often drew inspiration from the Christian Bible. He too traveled to Palestine and the Holy Lands in 1931. In addition to his numerous oil and gouaches canvases, such as the iconic White Crucifixion (1938), Chagall created some 100 etchings illustrating scenes from the Bible.

    In the years that followed, World War II brought most of Europe to a standstill, forcing many of its best modern artists, both Jewish and Gentile, to seek refuge in the United States. Hitler’s Third Reich ruled over much of the continent, including Vichy France, where the Chagalls then lived, and Joseph Goebbels is said to have personally ordered the artist’s paintings to be burned. In 1941, thanks to Chagall’s daughter, Ida, and the director of the Museum of Modern Art, Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Chagall’s name was added to a list of European artists whose lives were at risk and in need of asylum, and that June, Chagall, and Bella arrived safely in New York City.

    late period

    just before the war in europe ended, bella died of a viral infection, and chagall learned that vitebsk had been razed to the ground during the german invasion of russia. Paralyzed with grief, Chagall’s work declined dramatically, but he continued to accept commissions for stage sets and costume designs (a medium for which Chagall received high praise at the time but has since attracted little posthumous attention). p >

    Chagall never really made New York his home, and in 1947 the widower returned to France, settling in the southern city of Vence. He remarried in 1952 to Valentine ‘Vava ‘ Brodsky, and continued to paint, but his later canvases are markedly different from his earlier, better-known works. His colors and subjects seem more melancholic, and his painterly touches became increasingly lyrical and abstract, almost regressing in time to Post-Impressionist motifs. This led several mid- and late-century critics to label Chagall’s later work “clumsy” and lacking in focus.

    The most important achievements of the last two decades of his life were a series of large-scale commissions. the first came in 1960, for stained glass. These represented the twelve tribes of Israel and were housed in the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. Similar commissions followed in both Europe and the United States, including the Peace Memorial Window (1964) for the United Nations, and The America Windows (1977) for the Art Institute. of chicago, which chagall considered to be tokens of gratitude for his brief asylum in the usa. uu. during world war II. Important mural commissions also helped define Chagall’s late career, and included the ceiling of the Paris Opera (1963) and the juxtaposed murals The Sources of Music and The Triumphs of music (1966) for the New York Metropolitan Opera.

    in 1985, chagall passed away at the age of 97, now the last surviving of the original european masters of modern art. He was buried in Saint-Paul, in the south-east of France.

    the legacy of marc chagall

    Marc Chagall’s influence is as great as the number of styles he assimilated to create his work. Although he never fully aligned himself with any particular movement, he weaved many of the visual elements of Cubism, Fauvism, Symbolism, and Surrealism into his lyrically emotional aesthetic of Jewish folklore, dream pastorals, and Russian life. In this sense, Chagall’s legacy reveals an artistic style that is both entirely his own and a rich amalgamation of prevailing modern artistic disciplines. Chagall is also, like Picasso, a prime example of a modern artist who mastered multiple media, including painting in both oil and gouache, watercolour, murals, ceramics, printmaking, drawing, theater and art. costume design, and work with stained glass windows.

    influences and connections

    useful resources about marc chagall

    similar art

Related Articles

Back to top button