Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall is a famous Russian-French artist who was involved in the Surrealist & Expressionist art movements of the 20th century. He was an absolute pioneer of modernism and one of the greatest figurative artists of the twentieth century.

Marc Chagall achieved fame and fortune, and over the course of a long career created some of the best-known paintings of our time.

Chagall’s paintings helped him become one of the most famous Jewish and Modernist painters of all time.

Marc Chagall
This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.

Chagall was also involved in the fields of book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramics, tapestries and fine art prints. Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying in the 1950s that, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.”

Chagall was born in the former Russian Empire in a city called Vitebsk, in what is now Belarus.

Chagall moved to Paris in 1910 and began to develop his own artistic style. Art historian and curator James Sweeney notes that when Chagall first arrived in Paris, Cubism was the dominant art form and French art was still dominated by the “materialistic outlook of the 19th century.”

During his time in Paris Chagall was constantly reminded of his home in Russia, as Paris was also home to many Russian painters, writers, poets, composers, dancers, and other emigre’s. However, “night after night he painted until dawn,” only then going to bed for a few hours, and resisted the many temptations of the big city at night.

Contemporary artists did not yet understand or even like Chagall’s art. According to Baal-Teshuva, “they had little in common with a folkloristic storyteller of Russo-Jewish extraction with a propensity for mysticism.

The Paris School, which was referred to as ‘Parisian Surrealism’ meant little to them. Those attitudes would begin to change, however, when Pierre Matisse, the son of recognized French artist Henri Matisse, became his representative and held Chagall exhibitions in New York and Chicago in 1941. One of the earliest exhibitions included 21 of his masterpieces from 1910 to 1941.

Chagall’s work during all stages of his life, it was his colors which attracted and captured the viewer’s attention. In his earlier years his range was limited by his emphasis on form and his pictures never gave the impression of painted drawings. After absorbing the techniques of Fauvism and Cubism, he was able to blend them with his own folkish style.

Chagall had a complex relationship with Judaism. On the one hand, he credited his Russian Jewish cultural background as being crucial to his artistic imagination. But however ambivalent he was about his religion, he could not avoid drawing upon his Jewish past for artistic material.

This was also yet another artist to have been caught up in the Nazi occupation of much of Europe, with modern artists of that era being under great pressure to desist from producing their “degenerate” art. Even in occupied France, Chagall felt under great pressure to emigrate to France. His Jewish connections along with his link to modern art meant he would be about as unpopular as it gets with the occupying forces. Chagall was just one of a number of artists seeking to flee at that time, alongside the likes of Chaim Soutine, Max Ernst, Max Beckmann and Ludwig Fulda.

Chagall felt particularly attached to France, and European life in general, but it was an insistence of some to protect notable artists which eventually enabled, and persuaded, him to leave for America. This was an important moment where key artists were to eventually become American nationals, although Chagall retained his French nationality. Matisse and Picasso themselves remained in France.

In 1948 the artist returned to France, where he stayed for the rest of his life. This was always to be the country in which he felt most comfortable and also inspired in his work. Prior to leaving the States, Chagall was rewarded with retrospective exhibitions of his work at prestigious museums and art galleries, which underlined the impact he had made during his short time in North America. MoMA was the best known of those who backed his work, with the Art Institute of Chicago also helping to promote his work. These remain amongst the most significant art galleries even today.

Chagall biographer Jackie Wullschlager calls Chagall a “pioneer of modern art and one of its greatest figurative painters… [who] invented a visual language that recorded the thrill and terror of the twentieth century.” The artist also has become much loved within the art public, too, and it seems his style is well suited to the mainstream, as well as receiving academic acclaim at the time of his career.

Find below a comprehensive list of key Marc Chagall paintings:

  • Young Woman on a Sofa
  • The Wedding
  • The Birth
  • I and the Village
  • The Green Donkey (L’Ane vert)
  • Adam and Eve
  • Paris through the window
  • Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers
  • The Violinist
  • The Birthday
  • The Poet Reclining
  • Bella with White Collar
  • Houses at Vitebsk
  • The Blue House
  • Two Clowns on Horseback
  • The Tailor
  • The Fall of the Angels
  • Green Violinist
  • The Vision (L’Apparition)
  • The Cat Transformed Into A Woman (La Chatte métamorphosée en Femme)
  • Dream Village
  • The Female Acrobat
  • Solitude
  • Bouquet with Flying Lovers (Bouquet aux amoureux volants)
  • The White Crucifixion
  • Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Red Rooster
  • The Yellow Crucifixion
  • Madonna with sleighs
  • The Firebird
  • La Mariée
  • Lovers in the Red Sky
  • The Dance and The Circus (La Dance et le cirque)
  • The Blue Circus (Le Cirque bleu)
  • Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law
  • The Green Night
  • The Bastille
  • Bridge over the Seine
  • Champ de mars
  • The Crossing of the Red Sea
  • Commedia dell’arte
  • Self-portrait
  • Stained glass windows for the synagogue of the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital
  • King David
  • Ceiling of the Garnier Opera
  • Exodus
  • Wall art for the Knesset in Jerusalem
  • War
  • Mosaic murals in the lobby of the Metropolitan Opera, New York
  • Stage settings for
  • Biblical-themed windows
  • The Prophet Jeremiah
  • Job
  • Biblical Message
  • America Windows
  • The Yellow Donkey
  • Four Seasons
  • Family
  • Nine biblical-themed windows in luminous blue
  • The Great Parade
  • The Jerusalem Windows

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