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  • Marc Chagall: The Life of an Artist

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    Chagall Biography - Marc Chagall, an orthodox Jew, was born in Vitebsk, Russia on the 7th of July 1887 as Moshe Segal. He was the eldest of 9 children.
    At the age of 18 Chagall started at the art school of the painter Yehuda Pen, but left after 2 months to work as a re-toucher for a Vitebsk photographer.
    In 1909 he studied with Leon Bakst - the Russian painter, who revolutionised theatrical costume and set design. Bakst crucially, taught him to use colour as a basic element of his work.

    In 1910 Chagall moved to Paris, where he changed his name to the more French sounding Marc Chagall and in 1911 moved into his own studio in La Ruche, the legendary Parisian artist colony.

    Later in 1914 Chagall held his first one-man exhibition in the Berlin Gallery, Der Sturm. Later that year he got a 3-month visa to visit Russia, but couldn’t return to Paris because of the outbreak of the First World War.

    On 25th of July 1915 Chagall married Bella Rosenfeld in Vitebsk. Shortly afterwards they moved to Saint Petersburg, where Chagall worked as a Clerk in the Press Department for the War Economy Office, in lieu of military service.

    By 1919 Marc Chagall had set up the Vitebsk School of Fine Arts with artists Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky. But things did not go well and Chagall soon upped and left. Shortly afterwards, Malevich renamed the Art School the Suprematist Academy.

    Two years later, in 1922, he returned to his old studio in la Ruche, but all the paintings he had left before the War had disappeared. He hated the fact that part of his personal history, had gone, so for most of the next 3 years he painted replicas and new versions.

    Chagall’s paintings were selling well and he was establishing an international reputation. In 1933 a number of Chagall’s paintings were publicly burnt by the Nazis, outside of the Mannheim Art Gallery. In 1937, on the orders of the Nazi regime, all Chagall’s works were removed from German museums, three were shown in the notorious Degenerate Art Exhibition in 1937.

    Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War, Chagall moved his family to the United States. On the 23rd of June 1941, the same day Germany invaded Russia, Chagall and his family arrived in New York.

    In New York Pierre Matisse, the son of artist Henri Matisse, organised Chagall’s first exhibition in America, in November 1941, at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York.

    In 1944 Chagall’s wife Bella fell ill with a viral infection, she died just 36 hours after her arrival at hospital. Chagall was heartbroken.

    In the late 1940’s exhibitions were held of Chagall’s work in New York, London, Zurich and Bern in Switzerland. They were all hugely successful. But Chagall longed to return to France, in 1948 he left America for good.

    In 1950 he moved to Vence in the South of France and intermittently met up with Matisse and Picasso both of whom had studios nearby.

    In 1951 he married Valentina Brodsky. Their marriage gave him new energy later he visited Chartres Cathedral to study medieval stained-glass window painting. This inspired him and in 1959 he created stained glass windows for the north apse of Metz Cathedral in France.

    1964 saw Chagall complete the window of the Good Samaritan for the memorial to John D Rockefeller Junior and the Peace window for the United Nations building in New York.

    During 1975 Chagall produced 50 lithographs illustrating Shakespeare's The Tempest. Two years later, at the age of 90 Chagall was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.

    Marc Chagall died at his home in St Paul de Vence at the age of 97, on the 28th of March 1985.

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    Picture Credits:
    Chagall image - Credits: Israel Museum Collection Chagall ©
    Chagall Image - Carl Van Vechten
    Knesset Photos SIAE Photo by Nizzan Cohen CC BY-SA 4.0

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