Marc Chagall FROM - 18 Nov 2017

MARC CHAGALL – 1887 – 1985

Marc Chagall was born on in Vitebsk, Russia. From 1907 to 1910 he studied at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts in St Petersburg and later with Léon Bakst. In 1910 he moved to Paris where he associated with the avant-garde circle, including Soutine, Léger, Modigliani, Guillaume Apollinaire and Robert Delaunay and where he also encountered Fauvism and Cubism. In 1912 he participated in the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne. His first solo show was at Der Sturm gallery in Berlin in 1914.

Chagall returned to Russia in 1914 but was prevented from returning to Paris by the outbreak of war. He settled in Vitebsk, where he was appointed Commissar for Art in 1918 and founded the Vitebsk Popular Art School. He remained its director until 1920 when disagreements resulted in his resignation. He then moved to Moscow where executed his first stage designs for the State Jewish Chamber Theatre.

In 1923, after a brief period in Berlin, Chagall went back to Paris to meet the great art dealer Ambroise Vollard. His first retrospective took place in 1924 at the Galerie Barbazanges-Hodebert, Paris. During the 1930s he traveled to Palestine, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, and Italy. In 1933 the Kunsthalle Basel held a major retrospective of his work.

During the second World War Chagall fled to the United States where in 1946 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gave him a retrospective. In 1948 he settled permanently in France and exhibited in Paris, Amsterdam, and London. In 1951 he visited Israel and executed his first sculptures. During the 1960s Chagall continued to travel widely, often in association with large-scale commissions he received. Among these were windows for the synagogue of the Hadassah University Medical Center, Jerusalem; a ceiling for the Paris Opéra; a window for the United Nations building, New York; murals for the Metropolitan Opera House, New York; and windows for the cathedral in Metz, France. An exhibition of the artist’s work from 1967 to 1977 was held at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, in 1977-78, and a major retrospective was held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1985.

Chagall swam against the current of 20th-century art with his fanciful images of blue cows, flying lovers, biblical prophets and green-faced fiddlers on roofs. His work was dominated by his memories of his Jewish life and bible stories and also of the folklore of his early years in Russia. Chagall himself said he was a dreamer who never woke up.

“Some art historians have sought to decrypt his symbols,” says Jean-Michel Foray, director of the Marc Chagall Biblical Message Museum in Nice, “but there’s no consensus on what they mean. We cannot interpret them because they are simply part of his world, like figures from a dream.”

Pablo Picasso, his sometime friend and rival, marveled at the Russian’s feeling for light and the originality of his imagery. “I don’t know where he gets those images….” said Picasso. “He must have an angel in his head.”

Throughout his prolific 75-year career – he produced an astonishing 10,000 works – Chagall continued to incorporate figurative and narrative elements into his paintings. His warm, human pictorial universe, full of personal metaphor, set him apart from much of 20th-century art, with its intellectual deconstruction of objects and arid abstraction.

Chagall died in 1985, aged 98. At his finest Chagall was one of the great masters of the School of Paris.

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