Moishe Shagal a.k.a. Marc Chagall Marc Chagall, born Moishe Shagal, was born near Vitebsk, Belarus (Russia) in 1887. He was the oldest of 9 children in an orthodox jewish family. His family was very poor, and life in russia was very hard. Jewish people were discriminated against, and were not allowed to attend regular schools or universities. His mother bribed a professor to get him into high school. There he noticed a fellow student drawing, something he had never seen done before. It opened up a whole new world for him.
He decided he wanted to become an artist. In 1906, he moved to St. Petersburg, then the capital of Russia and its cultural and art center. He enrolled in art school and began painting portraits and landscapes. There he met Bella, the woman who would become his wife. In 1910, he moved to Paris and learned about popular styles of painting. Although he was interested in what other artists were doing, he maintained his own distinctive style. He became known for his beautiful use of color and for his subject matter, which was a folk art style with images from his russian childhood. The Fiddler (1912)
I AND THE VILLAGE (1911) He continued painting jewish motifs and memories of his home in Vitebsk, developing a quirky set of symbols which repeated in his many paintings. Ghostly figures floating in the sky, giant fiddlers dancing on tiny dollhouses, and animals (like goats) doing human things.
Chagall wanted to return to Vitebsk to marry Bella, so he accepted an invitation to show his work at a gallery in Berlin, with a plan to combine the two trips. While he was there, World War I broke out, and Russia closed its borders, trapping him there. Although he was stuck in Russia with a war going on around him, he was very happy to have married Bella, so his paintings of this time are some of his most happy ones. After suffering through the Russian Revolution of 1917, he returned to Paris, traveling to the south of France often, painting the beautiful colors of the Cote d’Azur He spent several years on a huge project illustrating the Bible. Bella with white collar (1917)
Midsummer Night’s Dream (1939) Beginning in 1937, Adolf Hitler came to power in Berlin and started confiscating works of modern art from German museums. Chagall was both a modern artist and a Jew, so he was suddenly out of favor in Germany. He remained in France, not understanding the danger he was in as World War II ripped Europe apart and Hitler terrorized Jewish people. The New York Museum of Modern Art added his name to a list of prominent artists whose lives were in danger, and Chagall fled France for the United States in 1941, shortly before Germany invaded Russia.
Three Candles (1938-40) Chagall was an instant celebrity in America. He designed sets and costumes for the New York Ballet Theater and was adored by critics and art patrons. While he was in America, he learned that the Germans had destroyed his beloved Vitebsk in Russia. Only 118 people survived where the population had been 240,000. In 1944, his wife Bella died and he stopped work for many months.
Paris Opera House ceiling (1963) In 1963 He painted the ceiling of the Paris Opera House. He was 77 years old. It took a year to complete the 2,400 square foot painting. Critics felt it was wrong to have a non- frenchman doing the job, but when the work was finished, it was so beautiful that even his harshest critics loved it.
“Peace” created for the United Nations (1964) Chagall is famous for his work in stained glass. Colored glass was appealing to him because of his love of intense colors. Because light shines through the colors, it has an added intensity that paint on a canvas can’t achieve. He created stained glass for churches, synagogues, and as memorials. The art institute of chicago has a beautiful chagall stained glass piece.
Chagall also liked to create huge mosaic murals. In 1974, he created “the Four Seasons”, a gift to the city of Chicago.
The Four Seasons (east) The mural is 70 feet long, 14 feet high, and 10 feet wide. You can see it today if you visit First National Plaza at Dearborn and Monroe streets in Chicago. The Four Seasons (west)
Marc Chagall died on March 28, 1985 in Saint- Paul, France. He was 97 years old. A poor child from a place in Russia far removed from the art scene, he rose to great fame, making an enormous impact in the world of modern art. His work used color and a mixture of reality and fantasy to tell folk stories and explain his Russian/ Jewish heritage. He lived through an extraordinary period of history, and spent his life painting the world he live in.