Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Biography

"In our life there is a single colour, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love."

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall was a Russian-born painter, printmaker and designer, now acknowledged as one of the great figurative artists of the twentieth century.  Chagall’s dreamlike subject matter, produced in rich colours and a fluent, painterly style, has been described as a hybrid of Cubism, Expressionism, Abstraction, Fauvism and Symbolism. In turn, his supernatural subjects are believed to have significantly influenced the Surrealists.

 

Marc Chagall was a Russian-born painter, printmaker and designer, now acknowledged as one of the great figurative artists of the twentieth century.  Chagall’s dreamlike subject matter, produced in rich colours and a fluent, painterly style, has been described as a hybrid of Cubism, Expressionism, Abstraction, Fauvism and Symbolism. In turn, his supernatural subjects are believed to have significantly influenced the Surrealists.

Marc Chagall was born in 1887 in what is now Belarus to a Hasidic Jewish family. Immersed in Jewish culture and iconography at an early age, Judaic traditions and folklore are evident in his art.

Chagall's trademark motifs included huge bouquets, melancholy clowns, flying lovers, fantastic animals, biblical prophets and fiddlers on a roof. Whimsical figurative elements, often pictured upside down, are placed on the canvas in an arbitrary fashion, producing an effect that sometimes resembles a film montage. These visual metaphors, based on emotional and poetic associations rather than logic, helped to make him one of the most popular major innovators of the 20th-century School of Paris. 

After studying in St. Petersburg, he moved to Paris, where he  met other notable artists such as Apollinaire, Delaunay, Leger, Modigliani and Lhote. There he encountered art movements including Fauvism and Cubism and developed his unique style. While he was actively engaged in the Parisian artistic community, Chagall considered art to be a means of personal expression, and preferred to be considered apart from other artists.

Marc Chagall’s art featured in a successful solo show in Berlin in 1914, but when visiting Russia during the same year, the artist was prevented from returning to Paris due to the outbreak of World War I. Finally leaving in 1922, Chagall spent the next two decades in Europe, primarily in Paris, before fleeing to America at the onset of World War II. He eventually returned to France in 1948, where he stayed until his death in 1985.

Just as his prolific career followed him across Europe and the US, Chagall’s experiences influenced his work. Hitler’s rise to power and the death of his wife Bella both became recurring pictorial motifs in his work, showing the impact of national and personal tragedies.

In 1923, Chagall began his career as a printmaker when Paris art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard commissioned a series of etchings to illustrate Nikolay Gogol’s novel 'Dead Souls.' He went on to produce an edition of French poet Jean de La Fontaine’s 'Fables', a series of etchings illustrating the Bible, and several smaller collections of engravings, single plates, coloured lithographs and monotypes.

Marc Chagall had a long and prolific career, completing many large public projects. In addition to painting, Chagall was also noted for his work in book illustrations and theatre design. In the 1950s, he expanded these artistic mediums further to include ceramics, stone sculpture, mosaics and tapestries.

In the late 1950s Chagall mastered the art of stained glass and his stained glass windows are commonly considered to be some of the strongest work produced towards the end of his career; the medium’s brilliant colours perfectly suited to his magical imagery. Public commissions included windows for the Hadassah Synagogue near Jerusalem, the United Nations and several cathedrals in Europe. He also worked on various sets for plays and ballets outside of Russia, completing a number of projects for the Paris Opera and the New York Metropolitan Opera.

His art has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the world, including the Louvre and Petit Palais in Paris; the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago. Today, his works are held in the Tate Gallery in London, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Albertina in Vienna, amongst others.

Marc Chagall
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