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Artists Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall Photo

Marc Chagall

French-Russian Draftsman, Painter, and Printmaker

Movements and Styles: Expressionism, Cubism

Born: July 7, 1887 - Vitebsk, Russian Empire (present day Belarus)

Died: March 28, 1985 - Saint-Paul, France

Marc Chagall Timeline

Quotes

"When I am finishing a picture, I hold some God-made object up to it - a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand - as a final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there's a clash between the two, it's bad art."
Marc Chagall
"In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love."
Marc Chagall
"All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites."
Marc Chagall
"Should I paint the earth, the sky, my heart? The cities burning, my brothers fleeing? My eyes in tears. Where should I run and fly, to whom?"
Marc Chagall
"When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is."
Pablo Picasso
"Some become painters by controlling or deflecting their gifts - and even attain greatness - but Chagall was born into paint, into the canvas, into the picture, with his clumsiness and all."
Clement Greenberg

"My hands were too soft.. I had to find some special occupation, some kind of work that would not force me to turn away from the sky and the stars, that would allow me to discover the meaning of life."

Marc Chagall Signature

Synopsis

Marc Chagall's poetic, figurative style made him one of most popular modern artists, while his long life and varied output made him one of the most internationally recognized. While many of his peers pursued ambitious experiments that led often to abstraction, Chagall's distinction lies in his steady faith in the power of figurative art, one that he maintained despite absorbing ideas from Fauvism and Cubism. Born in Russia, Chagall moved to France in 1910 and became a prominent figure within the so-called Ecole de Paris. Later he spent time in the United States and the Middle East, travels which reaffirmed his self-image as an archetypal "wandering Jew."

Key Ideas

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 an entirely abstract style. Yet he rejected each of them in succession, remaining committed to figurative and narrative art, making him one of the modern period's most prominent exponents of the more traditional approach.
Chagall's Jewish identity was important to him throughout his life, and much of his work can be described as an attempt to reconcile old Jewish traditions with styles of modernist art. However, he also occasionally drew on Christian themes, which appealed to his taste for narrative and allegory.
In the 1920s, Chagall was claimed as a kindred spirit by the emerging Surrealists, and although he borrowed from them, he ultimately rejected their more conceptual subject matter. Nevertheless, a dream-like quality is characteristic of almost all of Chagall's work; as the poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire once said, Chagall's work is "supernatural."

Biography

Marc Chagall Photo

Childhood

Marc Chagall was the eldest of nine children born to Khatskl Shagal and Feige-Ite in the settlement town of Liozna, near Vitebsk, an area that boasted a high concentration of Jews. Raised in a Hasidic family, Chagall attended local Jewish religious schools - obligatory for Russian Jews during this time, since discrimination policies prohibited mixing of different racial groups - where he studied Hebrew and the Old Testament. Such teachings would later inform much of the content and motifs in Chagall's paintings, etchings and stained-glass work.

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Marc Chagall Biography Continues

Important Art by Marc Chagall

The below artworks are the most important by Marc Chagall - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

I and the Village (1911)
Artwork Images

I and the Village (1911)

Artwork description & Analysis: This early work clearly shows both the Cubist and Fauvist influences at play in Chagall's canvas, yet unlike the works of Picasso or Matisse, Chagall is far more playful and liberal with decorative elements, creating a pastoral paradise out of the Russian countryside. It is an early sign of the approach that would make the artist famous and influential: a blend of the modern and the figurative, with a light, whimsical tone. Chagall depicts a fairy tale in which a cow dreams of a milk maid and a man and wife (one upright, one upside down) frolic in the work fields. Abstraction is at the heart of this work, but it exists to decorate the picture rather than invite analysis of the images.

Oil on canvas - Museum of Modern Art, New York

Paris Through the Window (1913)
Artwork Images

Paris Through the Window (1913)

Artwork description & Analysis: Paris Through the Window appears to reflect upon Chagall's feeling of divided loyalties - his love both for modern Paris and for the older patterns of life back in Russia. Hence the figure in the bottom right looks both ways, and the couple below the Eiffel Tower seems to be split apart. Upon first glance, the picture may recall one of Robert Delaunay's many fractured portraits of the Eiffel Tower, rendered in a style often referred to as Orphic Cubism. But Chagall makes no attempt here to dissect the subject or view it from multiple angles. Instead he searches for beauty in the details, creating what writer Guillaume Apollinaire called "sur-naturalist" elements, such as a two-faced head and floating human figure. The end result is a brilliantly balanced and visually appealing snapshot of Paris, juxtaposing the imaginary and the real, all seen through eyes that are both eccentric and loving.

Oil on canvas - Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Bella with White Collar (1917)
Artwork Images

Bella with White Collar (1917)

Artwork description & Analysis: This portrait of Chagall's first wife, Bella, whom he married in the summer of 1915, also doubles as a love letter of sorts. Her demure face and figure stand over a lush pastoral landscape, larger than life, and may have been inspired by the traditional subject, The Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Chagall once remarked that, "Only love interests me, and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love." Bella with White Collar, while certainly expressive and vibrant, stands as a lasting example of Chagall's mastery of more traditional subjects and forms, yet he no less maintains the faintest of sur-naturalist elements throughout. At Bella's feet we can see two tiny figures which presumably represent Chagall and the couple's daughter, Ida.

Oil on canvas - Private collection

More Marc Chagall Artwork and Analysis:

Green Violinist (1923-24) White Crucifixion (1938) Peace (1964)


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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Marc Chagall
Interactive chart with Marc Chagall's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Leon BakstLeon Bakst
Paul GauguinPaul Gauguin
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse

Personal Contacts

Guillaume ApollinaireGuillaume Apollinaire
Robert DelaunayRobert Delaunay
Fernand LégerFernand Léger
Ambroise VollardAmbroise Vollard

Movements

SymbolismSymbolism
FauvismFauvism
CubismCubism
ExpressionismExpressionism
Russian FuturismRussian Futurism

Influences on Artist
Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall
Years Worked: 1910 - 1985
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
El LissitzkyEl Lissitzky
Ossip ZadkineOssip Zadkine
Diego RiveraDiego Rivera
Joan MiróJoan Miró

Personal Contacts

André BretonAndré Breton
Henry McBrideHenry McBride
Robert HughesRobert Hughes

Movements

SurrealismSurrealism
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Useful Resources on Marc Chagall

Books

Websites

Articles

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

autobiography

My Life

biography

Chagall: A Biography

By Jackie Wullschlager

Marc Chagall (Jewish Encounters)

By Jonathan Wilson

More Interesting Books about Marc Chagall
Unseen works by Marc Chagall reveal artist's enduring love affair Recomended resource

By Roya Nikkhah
The Telegraph
May 15, 2011

Marc Chagall Windows Reinstalled in Chicago

Daily Herald
October 29, 2010

Big Chagall Show is SFMoMA's Most Popular

By Kenneth Baker
SFGate.com
November 11, 2003

The Finer Shade of Chagall

By Matt Schudel
Sun Sentinel
January 27, 2002

More Interesting Articles about Marc Chagall
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Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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