Moishe Segal, better known as Marc Chagall, was born July 7, 1887. He was a Belarussian-born French artist whose work transcended various artistic formats such as painting, drawings, illustrations, stained glass, theatre stages, ceramics, tapestries, and art prints. He started his career before World War I, traveling between Saint Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin. It was during this time that he developed his style rooted in his view of Eastern Europe and Belarussian Jewish origin. Even before the era of Surrealism, his works such as “I and the Village” portrayed somewhat of a psychic version of reality. Art historian Michael J. Lewis considered Chagall as the last of the first generation of European modernists. Even the world-renowned painter Pablo Picasso stated that Chagall is the only painter left at that time who understood color. Well, you don’t need to wait any longer, celebrate Chagall’s birthday by discovering all about his life and art right here!
July 7, 1887
March 28, 1985 (age 97)
Marc Chagall was born as Moishe Shagal near the city of Vitebsk on July 7, 1887. He was born to a Lithuanian Jewish Hasidic family with him being the oldest of nine children. During that time, the Jewish account for half of the population in Vitebsk. During the era of the Russian empire, Jewish children were not allowed to go to regular schools and universities. Chagall had to attend a local Jewish religious school. However, when he was 13, his mother tried enrolling him in a regular high school by offering money to the professor. It was at this school that Chagall first got exposed to art when he saw his classmate drawing. Later on, he confessed to his mother his interest in art, even if his mother did not understand it at first.
He first trained in 1906 under the realist artist Yehuda Pen who offered to teach him for free. After a few months at the school, however, Chagall left after he realized that realism was not in line with his dream as an artist. The young Chagall then moved to Saint Petersburg in 1907, seeking mentorship from the stage designer Leon Bakst. During this time, Chagall’s work was considered dark. Works such as “The Dead Man” (1908) and “My Fiancee with Black Gloves” (1909) showcase Chagall’s experimentation in arranging black and white colors. With Chagall gaining more momentum in his career, it was only right for him to then move to Paris (1910). It was during his first four years in Paris that Chagall began gaining recognition. Around this time, he created pieces such as “Self-Portrait With Seven Fingers” (1912), “I and the Village” (1911), “Hommage à Apollinaire” (1912), “Calvary” (1912), “The Fiddler” (1912), and “Paris Through the Window” (1913). Chagall cites his memories of childhood and life in Vitebsk as a major influence on his art around that time. After doing several exhibitions, Chagall finally did his first solo show in Berlin where he made quite an impression on the German circle of artists. He then moved back to Vitebsk where he became a commissar of art. He traveled a lot during this time from Vitebsk, Moscow, Berlin, to Paris.
Throughout multiple moves to many places, Chagall started exploring other mediums such as stage design, costume design, and printmaking. When Hitler rose to power, Chagall created “White Crucifixion” in 1938, which was considered one of his most powerful works. In the painting, he used Christian and Jewish symbolism to depict the terror Nazi German brought upon the German Jews. With the increasing Nazi occupation in Europe, Chagall and his family sought refuge in New York, United States (1941). Chagall developed the themes that he already created in the previous years with pieces such as “Yellow Crucifixion” and “The Feather and the Flowers” (1943). Chagall’s work remained iconic for the last 30 years of his life. He mastered making art on stained glass during the late 1950s, creating pieces in various locations such as the Cathedral of Metz in France, the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, the United Nations building in New York, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Various reports reported a lot about Chagall’s journey as an artist. Not much was mentioned about his personal life. However, one thing that people knew was his marriage to Bella Rosenfeld, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Vitebsk (1915). Just like his other works, this particular experience in his life became a big influence on some of his art. Rosenfeld appeared in paintings including “The Birthday” (1915) and “Double Portrait with a Glass of Wine” (1917). Rosenfeld’s death in 1944 became an inspiration for pieces such as “Around Her” (1945), “The Wedding Candles” (1945), and “Nocturne” (1947)
Chagall first studied art under the guidance of realist artist Yehuda Pen.
Chagall relocated to Saint Petersburg where he trained under the stage designer Leon Bakst.
Pursuing a career in art, Chagall moved to Paris to develop his style.
Chagall moved back to Vitebsk where he met and married Bella Rosenfeld.
With Nazis taking over Europe, Chagall and his family moved to New York, United States.
Chagall was tasked with designing costumes for the Aleko Ballet in New York.
Chagall painted a glass window in the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Chagall painted on the ceiling of the Paris Opera House.
Why We Love Marc Chagall
He is never complacent
Even after creating multiple iconic pieces, Chagall never ceases to keep experimenting with different mediums of making art including painting, drawings, illustrations, stained glass, theatre stages, ceramics, tapestries, and art prints.
His life story bleeds into his work
Good art is honest and has a story behind it. This is what makes Chagall’s art so appealing to people. It is evident in multiple pieces that Chagall is not afraid of being honest and vulnerable about his feelings.
His art is rooted in his culture
Even after moving from one place to another, Chagall still considers his Jewish roots. His childhood in Vitebsk was the biggest inspiration for his art.
5 Surprising Facts
His childhood home doesn’t have art
Despite being a world-renowned artist, Chagall grew up in a home with no art or appreciation of creativity and was first exposed to art when he saw his classmate drawing in high school.
Painting naked, eating less
When he first moved to Paris to make a name for himself, Chagall saved money by eating less and painting naked so that didn’t have to wash his clothes.
He never learned to speak English
Moving to a new place kind of forces you to learn a new language or dialect, however, Chagall never learned English despite moving to America.
He never sought fame
As a child, Chagall was very timid and this never disappeared throughout his adulthood as Chagall tended to avoid the spotlight and was never really interested in seeking fame.
His works are worth millions
As expected of a prolific artist, Chagall’s work, specifically “Les Amoreux” was sold for $28.5 million at Sotheby’s, New York,
Marc Chagall FAQs
How many paintings did Marc Chagall paint?
In the 75 years of his career, Chagall painted a total of over 10,000 paintings.
What techniques did Marc Chagall use?
Chagall used many techniques with characteristics of Cubism, Fauvism, Symbolism, and Surrealism, using skewed dimensions and dreamlike imagery.
Did Marc Chagall create portrait landscapes or abstracts?
Chagall worked with many radical modernist styles, all of which led him to work in an abstract style.
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