Marc Chagall




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Published on May 28, 2006

Marc Chagall paintings
As a Jew in born in 19th century Russia, Marc Chagall had two options in pursuing an artistic career: he could hide or deny his Jewish roots, or he could use art to celebrate them. He chose the latter, and today we remember him not only as a quintessential Jewish artist, but also as an adept colorist, an Expressionist genius, and a master of many artistic mediums.
Chagall (1887 -- 1985) was born near the city of Vitebsk (now Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire), about half of whose population was Jewish. Chagall's family was part of one of the Eastern European Jewish market-villages (which were called "shtetls," and proliferated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries), and his early life was steeped in Hasidic Judaism.

Though Chagall would spend most of the 20th century outside Russia, in either France or the United States, his artistic inspirations were seated in his hometown and upbringing. The whimsical elements in his paintings are often tied to Hasidic lore, and much of his work is a response to the long-standing oppression of Russian Jews. As for Vitebsk, in 1944 Chagall addressed the town in the second person in an open letter, in which he pondered his motivations for leaving, and concluded that "I did not live with you, but I didn't have one single painting that didn't breathe with your spirit and reflection."

"Porcelain" -

In my dreams I'm dying all the time,
Then I wake it's kaleidoscopic mind
I never meant to hurt you,
I never meant to lie
So this is goodbye,
This is goodbye

Tell the truth, You've never wanted me
Tell me

In my dreams I'm jealous all the time,
When I wake I'm going out of my mind
Going out of my mind

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    • The Beach Motion Picture Soundtrack
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    • Richard Melville Hall, Moby
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