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Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

From the drab surroundings of the Jewish quarter (or “shtetl”) in the city of Vitebsk in Belarus, Chagall created a highly personal style of modern art. Yet his themes of love, loss, joy, memory and family are universal. Chagall combined real and dream worlds into richly coloured fantasies where people fly and animals cavort. Over a long life spent mostly in exile in France, Chagall continually expressed deep longing for the Russia and Vitebsk of his childhood. Until his death at age 97, he sustained an almost mystical union with this special place and time.

Chagall: The Man and His Art

1887: born in Vitebsk, Russia (now Belarus), the eldest of nine children. His father was a fishmonger

1890s: attends a traditional Jewish school before entering the local Russian high school at age 11

1907: arrives in St. Petersburg illegally, as Jews were forbidden to reside there without a permit – spends three years studying painting, and encounters modern French art

1911: settles in Paris at a studio complex called La Ruche (French for “the beehive”) along with fellow Russians Archipenko, Zadkine and Lipchitz. Absorbs the latest developments in French art

1912: exhibits at the Paris Salon d’Automne and Salon des Independants (again in 1914)

1913–1914: exhibits work in Berlin that helps launch his international reputation

1914: returns to Vitebsk

1915: marries Bella Rosenfeld who gives birth to their daughter Ida – begins a series of fifty paintings documenting life in Vitebsk, including the famous Double Portrait with Wine Glass on view in this exhibition – sells thirty works to one Jewish collector for a future Jewish art museum

1917–1918: Russian Revolution breaks out. Jews are granted full status as Russian citizens – appointed Commissar for the Arts in Vitebsk – founds the Vitebsk Art School which he directs from

1919 to 1920. Invites fellow Russians Ivan Puni, El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich to teach there

1920: leaves for Moscow where he designs sets for the new Jewish Chamber Theatre

1922–1923: Chagall and his family immigrate to Paris

1941: seeks asylum in the United States during World War II

1944: His wife Bella dies in New York

1948: returns to France

1950s and 1960s: takes up new media such as stained glass, ceramics, sculpture and large-scale mural painting – concentrates on the themes of the circus and theatre

1985: dies at age 97

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