Artist's Biography - Marc Chagall
( 1887 - 1985 )
Marc Chagall, often referred to as the "James Joyce of Art", managed to develop and preserve his own unique style and vision in a time when the world's view of art was in a constant state of flux. Of the many modern art movements, including Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, Futurism, DeStijl, and Surrealism, Chagall, though he repeatedly resisted the label, is often grouped with the surrealists.
Surrealism may take a number of distinct forms each of which, is characterized by the irrational approach, and construction, of unreal, unworldly, mysterious figures, either painted extremely meticulously, or constructed in near abstract shapes. Chagall, who calls his work, "pictorial arrangements of images that obsess me" incorporates Eastern and Western art, his childhood village and dreams, subconscious fantasies, and lovers, in a magic world of beauty and color, that is sometimes sad, yet untouched by corrupting influences. This inner world or "la Chagallite", as it is sometimes called, defies both logic and physics, and once viewed, is not easily forgotten.
Chagall was born in the Jewish quarter of Vitebsk, White Russia, on July 7, 1887. His parents were frugal, honest people who were dismayed at his interest in becoming a painter. Against their wishes he enrolled in the local art school and later studied art under Leon Bakst, at a private school in St. Petersburg. It was there a lawyer named Vinaver admired the young man's earnest, highly untraditional creations and gave him an allowance which enabled him to travel to Paris in 1910. Once there, Chagall fell in love with France and the "City of Light" and later spent most of his adult life there.
In 1914, after some success in Paris and Berlin, Chagall returned to Vitebsk just before the outbreak of World War I to marry his childhood sweetheart, Bella Rosenfeld. (When he was to return to Europe after the war he would discover that of the several hundred paintings he had left behind, nearly all of them disappeared) From 1914-1922, Chagall, while continuing to paint, was in turn, Commissar of Fine Arts for the new Bolshevist government in Vitebsk, founder of a new Academy for Fine Arts in Vitebsk, and set designer for the Jewish State Theater, and playwright Gogol. His painting, however, did not please the new party officials who angrily asked, "Why is the cow green and why is the horse flying in the sky? What has that to do with Marx and Lenin?" After a disagreement with another group of artist, Chagall left Moscow for Berlin, where his paintings had since become accepted. Later, in his autobiography, "My Life" (1933) he was to write: "Neither Imperial Russia, nor Soviet Russia needs me. I am a mystery, a stranger to them%85perhaps Europe will love me, and with her, my Russia."
And love him it did. For the rest of his life, from continent to continent, success followed Chagall wherever he went. His work took him around the world - producing paintings, lithographs, murals, illustrations, marble reliefs, sets and costumes, and stained glass windows for scores of exhibitions, books, operas, ballets and cathedrals. Chagall is painter of love, painting the things he loved: his wife, people, flowers, animals, and his home town. Although he practiced his art in Russia for no more than 12 years, the locale for most of his works was still the Jewish section of Vitebsk. It is to his credit that through all these years he has kept his vision, his "la chagallite" intact. Misunderstood at first, Chagall's world has grown to be loved and accepted by people everywhere.
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