"I work in whatever medium likes me at the moment." Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall (July 7, 1887 - March 28, 1985) was a Belarussian painter of Jewish origin. Among the most celebrated painters of the 20th century, he has often been seen as closely associated with the Surrealist Movement.
Born Moishe Zakharovich Shagalov (Moishe Segal) in Vitebsk, Belarus, in the Russian Empire, Chagall was the eldest of eight children in the close-knit Jewish family formed by his father, a herring merchant and his mother, 'Felga-Ita'. This period of his life, described as happy though impoverished, appears in references throughout Chagall's work.
Begining to study painting in 1906 under famed local artist Yehuda Pen, Chagall moved to St. Petersburg only a few months later in 1907. There he joined the school of the Society of Art Supporters and studied under Nikolai Roerich, encountering artists of every school and style.
This period was a difficult one for Chagall, as Jewish residents at the time could only live in St. Petersburg with a permit, and in fact was jailed for a brief time. Chagal remained in St. Petersburg until 1910, making various trips to his home village, during one of which he was to meet his future spouse, Bella Rosenfeld.
After becoming known as an artist, he left St. Petersburg to settle in Paris in order to be near the art community of the Montparnasse district. In 1914, he returned to Vitebsk and a year later married his fiancée, Bella, whom he had met in 1909. World War I broke out while Chagall was in Russia. In 1916, the Chagalls had a daughter, Ida.
Chagall became an active participant in the Russian Revolution. The Soviet Ministry of Culture made him a Commissar of Art for the Vitebsk region, where he founded an art school. He did not fare well politically under the Soviet system. He and his wife moved to Moscow in 1920 and back to Paris in 1923.
With the German occupation of France during World War II, and the deportation of Jews and the Holocaust, the Chagalls had to flee Paris, located near the invading German army. He hid at Villa Air-Bel] in Marseilles and was assisted to escape from France through Spain and Portugal by the United States journalist, Varian Fry. In 1941, the Chagalls settled in America.
On September 2, 1944, Chagall faced a crisis: his beloved Bella, the constant subject of his paintings and companion of his life, passed away from an illness. Two years later in 1946 he returned to Europe. By 1949 he had set himself up in Provence, France. During these intense years, he rediscovered the vital energy of color, free and vibrant. His works of this period are dedicated to themese inspired by love and the joy of life, with curved, sinuous figures. He also began to work in sculputre, ceramics, and stained glass.
Chagall remarried in 1952 to Valentina Brodsky. He traveled several times to Greece, and in 1957 visited Israel, where in 1960 he created stained glass windows for the synagogue of the Hadassah University Clinic in Jerusalem and in 1966, wall art for the new Knesset (parliament) being constructed in that city.
The museum in Vitsebsk which bears his name was founded in 1997 in the building where his family lived on 29 Pokrovskaia street--though until his death, years before the fall of the Soviet Bloc, he was 'persona non grata' in his homeland. The museum only has copies of his work.
He died at the age of 98 in aint-Paul de Vence, France.