Marc Chagall

1887–1985

Marc Chagall, ‘The Blue Circus’ 1950
The Blue Circus 1950
© ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017
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Biography

Artist biography

Marc Chagall born 1887 [- 1985]

Russian-born painter, lithographer, etcher and designer. Born in Vitebsk of a deeply religious Jewish family. First artistic instruction under Penn, a local painter, then spent 1907-10 in St Petersburg, where he entered the Imperial School for the Protection of the Fine Arts, and later studied under Bakst. Lived 1910-14 in Paris, where he met Apollinaire, Delaunay, Leger, Modigliani and Lhote. Somewhat influenced by Cubism, but differed from it in his love of fantasy. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Der Sturm, Berlin, 1914. Returned to Russia the same year and had to remain there because of the war. After the Revolution, appointed Fine Arts Commissar for the province of Vitebsk and directed an art academy; also executed murals for Granovsky's Jewish Theatre in Moscow. Spent 1922-3 in Berlin, then 1923-40 in Paris, except for visits to Egypt, Palestine, Holland, Spain, Portugal and Italy; in addition to paintings, made illustrations for Gogol's Dead Souls, La Fontaine's Fables and the Bible. In the USA as a refugee 1941-7, then returned to France, settling in 1950 at Vence. His later works include a new ceiling painting for the Paris Opéra and, from 1957 a number of commissions for stained glass. Lives in Saint-Paul-de-Vence.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.109-10

Wikipedia entry

Marc Zakharovich Chagall (/ʃəˈɡɑːl/ shə-GAHL; born Moishe Zakharovich Shagalov; 6 July [O.S. 24 June] 1887 – 28 March 1985) was a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin. An early modernist, he was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in virtually every artistic format, including painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints.

Art critic Robert Hughes referred to Chagall as "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century" (though Chagall saw his work as "not the dream of one people but of all humanity"). According to art historian Michael J. Lewis, Chagall was considered to be "the last survivor of the first generation of European modernists". For decades, he "had also been respected as the world's preeminent Jewish artist". Using the medium of stained glass, he produced windows for the cathedrals of Reims and Metz, windows for the UN, and the Jerusalem Windows in Israel. He also did large-scale paintings, including part of the ceiling of the Paris Opéra.

Before World War I, he travelled between Saint Petersburg, Paris and Berlin. During this period he created his own mixture and style of modern art based on his idea of Eastern European Jewish folk culture. He spent the wartime years in Soviet Belarus, becoming one of the country's most distinguished artists and a member of the modernist avant-garde, founding the Vitebsk Arts College before leaving again for Paris in 1922.

He had two basic reputations, writes Lewis: as a pioneer of modernism and as a major Jewish artist. He experienced modernism's "golden age" in Paris, where "he synthesized the art forms of Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism, and the influence of Fauvism gave rise to Surrealism". Yet throughout these phases of his style "he remained most emphatically a Jewish artist, whose work was one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village of Vitebsk." "When Matisse dies," Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, "Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is".

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