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Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was born in Vitebsk, Russia in 1887 and lived to be 97 years old. His style, while reflective of cubist, expressionist and surrealist affinities, is distinctly personal. His contribution to early modern painting and printmaking has been of the first order. Chagall studied briefly with a local artist in Vitebsk, and in 1908 studied at the academy in St. Petersburg. In 1910, he went to Paris, where he would live for most of the rest of his long life. There, he met the poets Max Jacob, Blaise Centrars and Andre Salmeon and the painters Modigliani, Delaunay, LaFresnaye, and other cubists and independents. The complexities of Chagall’s aesthetics are apt to be obscured somewhat by the whimsical fantastic subject matter. Although cubism had an early and formative influence upon his works, it did not detract from his uniqueness of expression. The impact of cubist structure and spatial handling is evident in I and my Village (1911) and Over Vitebsk (1916), both in the New York Museum of Modern Art. Thereafter, his style becomes increasingly unique and the cubist aspects operate less evidently.
Appollinaire introduced Chagall to Herwarth Walden, the German publisher and dealer, in Berlinin 1914. This resulted in Chagall’s first one-man show in the same year. He returned to Russiato marry. After the revolution of 1917, he was appointed Commissar of Fine Arts for Vitebskand founded an art school there. He designed murals for the Moscow Jewish Theatre in 1922 and then left for Parisby way of Berlin, where he stayed long enough to make engravings as illustrations for a book. The poet Cendrars was responsible for Chagall’s meeting with the dealer Ambroise Vollard. His first retrospective exhibition was given at the Galerie Barbazange-Hodebert, Parisin 1924. His style became increasingly romantic and devoted to fantastic narratives during the middle 1920s. Chagall’s first lithography plates (30 in all 1922-23) were executed in crayon on lithographic paper. The Jewish Wedding (1926), a gouache and chalk composition, disclosed another tendency of his Russian origin. His first New York show dates from 1926. In 1927, he undertook the illustration of La Fontaine’s Fables, completing the 100 plates in 1930. In 1931, he traveled toPalestine andSyria to study themes for Biblical engravings, another Vollard commission.
By now, Chagall had become internationally famous, and a large retrospective in 1933 at theBaselArt Museumincreased his prestige. He was disquieted, however, by political developments inEuropeduring the early 1930s and the increasingly severe persecution and threat of war lead him to paint religious works of a darkly exciting kind. His apprehensions were aggravated by a visit toPolandin 1935.
In 1939, the first prize in the Carnegie International,Pittsburgh, was given to Chagall, and in 1941, he settled in theUnited Statesat the invitation of the Museum of Modern Art. At first rejuvenated by his new environment, he was deeply saddened by the death of his wife in
1944. Before returning to Parisin 1946, he completed the sets for Stravinsky’s Firebird and other theatrical designs. He also produced 13 color lithographs for One Thousand and One Nights. On his return toParis, Chagall went to master printer Mourlot, who was responsible for the revival of lithography after the war.
Chagall had retrospective shows in 1947 in Paris, Amsterdam, and London, and was represented at the 1948 Venice Biennial. In 1949, he worked in Venice, primarily with ceramics. In that year, he also painted an important canvas, The Red Sun. This was an allegory invoking memories of his late wife and the rich colored imagery of Russian folk fantasy, which was always so much a part of his art.
1950-1952 Workshop in rue Chabrol
1952 First color print, The Artist with Palette
1955-1956 Verve Magazine publishes 18 color and 12 black-and-white lithographs
1958-1960 80 color and 23 black and white Biblical drawings for Verve
1957-1960 Daphnis and Chloe published by Teriade. 42 illustrations, 26 small, 16 double-page
1967 The Circus
1967 The Land of the Gods
The 1950s brought additional honors to Chagall, not the least of which was the commission from the Joseph Neufeld and the Women’s Zionist Organization of America to design 12 stained glass windows for the synagogue of theHadassah-HebrewUniversityMedicalCenternearJerusalem.
Chagall had the rare ability to start each morning fresh as if each day was the first. He saw each flower as the most brilliant, each fruit as the sweetest, and each woman as the most beautiful.
- Art Gallery of New South Wales
- Art Institute of Chicago
- Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania
- California State University Library
- Cleveland Museum of Art
- Dixon Gallery and Gardens
- E.G. Buhrle Collection
- Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
- Goteborg Museum of Art
- Guggenheim Hermitage Museum
- Guggenheim Museum
- Haggerty Museum of Art, Marquette University
- Kunsthaus Zürich
- Kunstmuseum Basel
- Kunstmuseum Bern
- Minneapolis Institute of Arts
- Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall
- Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
- Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo
- Museum of Fine Arts
- Museum of Fine Arts, University of Montana
- National Gallery of Canada
- Oglethorpe University Museum
- Palazzo Forti
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection
- Royal Academy of Arts
- Saginaw Art Museum
- San Diego Museum of Art
- Santa Barbara Museum of Art
- State Russian Museum
- Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art
- Tate Gallery
- Tel Aviv Museum of Art
- Wright Museum of Art, Beloit College
…and countless other museums, galleries, and private collections around the world.