“I know I must live in France, but I don’t want to cut myself off from America. France is a picture already painted. America still has to be painted. Maybe that’s why I feel freer there. But when I work in America, it’s like shouting in a forest. There’s no echo.”
Marc Chagall was a Belorussian-born French artist whose work generally was based on emotional association rather than traditional pictorial fundamentals.
Marc Chagall was born in Belarus in 7 July 1887 and developed an early interest in art. After studying painting, in 1907 he left Russia for Paris, where he lived in an artist colony on the city’s outskirts. Fusing his own personal, dreamlike imagery with hints of the fauvism and cubism popular in France at the time, Chagall created his most lasting work—including I and the Village (1911)—some of which would be featured in the Salon des Indépendants exhibitions. After returning to Vitebsk for a visit in 1914, the outbreak of WWI trapped Chagall in Russia. He returned to France in 1923 but was forced to flee the country and Nazi persecution during WWII. Finding asylum in the U.S., Chagall became involved in set and costume design before returning to France in 1948. In his later years, he experimented with new art forms and was commissioned to produce numerous large-scale works. Chagall died in St.-Paul-de-Vence in 1985.
Marc Chagall was born in a small Hassidic community on the outskirts of Vitebsk, Belarus, on July 7, 1887. His father was a fishmonger, and his mother ran a small sundries shop in the village. As a child, Chagall attended the Jewish elementary school, where he studied Hebrew and the Bible, before later attending the Russian public school. He began to learn the fundamentals of drawing during this time, but perhaps more importantly, he absorbed the world around him, storing away the imagery and themes that would feature largely in most of his later work.
At age 19 Chagall enrolled at a private, all-Jewish art school and began his formal education in painting, studying briefly with portrait artist Yehuda Pen. However, he left the school after several months, moving to St. Petersburg in 1907 to study at the Imperial Society for the Protection of Fine Arts. The following year, he enrolled at the Svanseva School, studying with set designer Léon Bakst, whose work had been featured in Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. This early experience would prove important to Chagall’s later career as well.
Despite this formal instruction, and the widespread popularity of realism in Russia at the time, Chagall was already establishing his own personal style, which featured a more dreamlike unreality and the people, places and imagery that were close to his heart. Some examples from this period are his Window Vitebsk (1908) and My Fianceé with Black Gloves (1909), which pictured Bella Rosenfeld, to whom he had recently become engaged.
Despite his romance with Bella, in 1911 an allowance from Russian parliament member and art patron Maxim Binaver enabled Chagall to move to Paris, France. After settling briefly in the Montparnasse neighborhood, Chagall moved further afield to an artist colony known as La Ruche (“The Beehive”), where he began to work side by side with painters such as Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Léger as well as the avant-garde poet Guillaume Apollinaire. At their urging, and under the influence of the wildly popular fauvism and cubism, Chagall lightened his palette and pushed his style ever further from reality. I and the Village (1911) and Homage to Apollinaire (1912) are among his early Parisian works, widely considered to be his most successful and representative period.