Born in Belarus, Marc Chagall is a talented painter, a bright art practitioner of the avant-garde of the twentieth century who took over the world with his unique style and special outlook on life. Chagall is one of the few artists who formed a whole era in art. It is hard to name a person who has not heard of this great man with an incredible imagination and a unique vision of his creativity in painting.
At age 19 he entered the school of the famous Vitebsk painter Yudel Pen, who saw a bright talent and offered the young man to study for free. A few months later, the future artist went to study in St. Petersburg.
Chagall decided to continue his education in Paris: he attended classes at the academies of arts, examined various exhibitions and galleries, mastered new artistic movement – cubism, futurism, orphism and at the same time he was creating his own, exceptional style.
In June 1914 the first exhibition of Marc Chagall took place in Berlin, where were almost all his pictures and drawings painted in Paris. After his success, the name Marc Chagall became widely known.
With the beginning of World War I, Marc Chagall returned to his homeland where he created famous paintings such as: “Over the Town”, “The Promenade”. Besides, in Vitebsk he got married to Bella Rosenfeld – a woman who became his greatest love and inspiration for the rest of his life. In 1934 Chagall’s paintings, which were kept in the museums in Berlin, were publicly burned on the orders of Hitler. Soon after that, Marc Chagall left France and went to the USA with his family.
Marc Chagall’s decision to move to the United States was promoted by the tense situation in Europe, when Germany declared war on the USSR. He lived in America with his family and during this time he created two picturesque panels for the Metropolitan Opera in the USA and many other famous works. In 1942, German Sevastyanov, manager of the New York Ballet Theater, persuades the artist to create the scenery and costumes for the ballet “Aleko”. For the four acts of “Aleko”, Chagall completed a series of sketches, costumes, scenery and four large panels.
Before leaving the USA, Chagall receives an order for illustrations for four tales from “A thousand and one nights”. As a result, Chagall creates the first series of color lithographs (thirteen illustrations), which were published in New York after the artist left the United States. In the US many new works were created, reflecting the American atmosphere as well as the anxiety of the war years. During his stay in the United States, Chagall continued to work in the field of book illustration. In particular, he created wonderful illustrations for the book of Itzik Fefer’s poems.
In the USA, the stained-glass masterpiece can be seen in the composition “Peace” for the UN building in New York dedicated to the memory of Dag Hammarskjold (UN General Secretary) and another 15 people who died in a plane crash. Chagall’s most significant stained-glass work in the United States is the ensemble for the “Union Church” located in the town of Pocantico hills, not far from New York. The mosaic composition established in 1974 in front of the Bank in Chicago is the last work of Chagall, created in the USA.
In 1944 he was going to return to Paris liberated from the Germans, but these days his wife Bella suddenly passed away. Chagall grieved for his loss. He did not paint nine months, but when he returned to it, he created two works dedicated to Bella “The Wedding Candles” and “Around Her”. Bella was not the last woman in the artist’s life but till his dying day she remained his love and eternal muse.
After the war Chagall returned to Europe, his artwork illustrated bible theme. Plenty of etchings for the French Bible edition: paintings, engravings, stained-glass windows expressed the message of the artist to the world. That is why in 1973 he decided to open a museum in Nice. The French government has announced this collection as the official national museum.
In honor of the 90th anniversary of the painter in the Louvre was held the largest lifetime exhibition of his works. Contrary to all the rules, pictures of the living artist were exhibited in the museum.
Marc Chagall passed away at Saint-Paul-de-Vence. He is buried in the local cemetery in Provence.
The art of Marc Chagall is striking in its diversity and defies strict classification. The artist’s style combines expression and unconventional style which was formed under the influence of cubism, fauvism, orphism. In the canvases he illustrated his special outlook and religious views.
Stick to his style, Marc Chagall continued to experiment in various techniques and genres all his life long. His creative heritage consist of book illustrations, graphics, scenic painting, mosaics, stained-glass windows, sculpture and ceramics.
One of the most fruitful movement for Chagall was a book illustration. For famous writers such as Andre Breton, Andre Malraux and many others Marc became the incarnation of a literary artist who expresses poetic lines in fantastic images.
Original works by Marc Chagall adorn the largest theaters in the world. At the request of Andre Malraux, Minister of Culture of France, the artist painted the plafond for the auditorium of the Paris Opera Garnier, created two murals for the New York Metropolitan Opera and decorated the building of the National Bank with mosaics in Chicago.
Chagall was one of the first who started to use easel painting in the design of theatrical scenery. In the early 60s the noted throughout the world painter became interested in monumental art and interior design. In Jerusalem he created mosaics for the parliament building, stained glass windows for the synagogue of the Medical Center and later he decorated many Catholic and Lutheran temples, synagogues throughout Europe, America and Israel.
The talented painter also made a contribution into literature: poetry, essays and memoirs in Yiddish were published during his lifetime and translated into Hebrew, Russian, Belarusian, English and French. The autobiographical book of Marc Chagall “My Life” gained world-wide prominence.
It is extremely difficult for a person barren of imagination to visually perceive the canvases of the artist because they do not fit into the concept of standard painting and are very different from classical works, where the accuracy of lines is extremely important. The artist has created his own reality, which is rich in colors and full of feelings, the one where people can fly and walk in the clouds. His paintings seem strange and at the same time they are extraordinary. That is the way the artist sees the reality surrounding him.
Today the work of Marc Chagall can be seen in galleries in France, USA, Germany, Russia, Belarus, Switzerland and Israel. The memory of the great artist is honored in his homeland: the house in Vitebsk where the graphic artist lived for a long time was turned into the house-museum of Chagall. Fans of the painter up to now can personally visit the place where the avant-garde artist created his masterpieces.
Text by Bozhena Krasnogir