Marc Chagall

1887

About the artist

A Belorussian-born French painter, printmaker and designer, Marc Chagall created a singularly poetic figurative oeuvre full of rich colours and dreamlike imagery – flying lovers, massive bouquets, melancholy clowns, fantastic animals, lonely fiddlers and vibrant hearts – that made him one of the most popular Western artists of the 20th century.

Born on 7 July 1887, in Vitebsk, in the Russian Empire, Chagall grew up among a devout Jewish community. After learning the elements of drawing at a local school and studying painting in St. Petersburg, he moved to Paris in 1910, befriending such audacious young painters as Expressionist Chaim Soutine and Cubists Fernand Léger and André Lhote, while absorbing the rich hues of the Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Fauvist paintings popular at the time. Responding to these stimuli, Chagall produced works such as I and the Village, 1911, The Fiddler, 1912, and Paris Through the Window, 1913, essentially establishing the whimsical and emotional vocabulary that would characterize his art of the next 60 years.

If the development of his career and the vagaries of two World Wars forced Chagall to move repeatedly between France, Germany and Russia while also spending time in the US, in his private life he experienced two great loves: one, lasting more than 30 years, with Bella Rosenfeld, who appeared in myriad paintings from Birthday, 1915–23, to Around Her, 1945; the other, with Valentina Brodsky, who was featured in several of his later portraits. The artist died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence on the French Riviera, where he had settled with Brodsky.

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.

(Source: Sotheby’s)

Selected shows

Marc Chagall's work has been exhibited in major galleries and museums throughout Europe and the United States before his death in 1985. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gave him a retrospective in 1946. An exhibition of the artist’s work from 1967 to 1977 was held at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, in 1977–78, and a major retrospective was held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1985. Today his artworks can be found in renowned collections throughout the world such as the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Everything in art must spring from the movement of our whole life-stream, of our whole being - including the unconscious.

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