Marc Chagall

 

Marc Chagall, Biography

 

Marc Chagall, was born on July 7, 1887 in Vitebsk, a town in Imperial Russia. The fluent relationship enjoyed by the Jewish and the Christian Orthodox communities in his native village, allowed him to work easily with both religions throughout his whole life.

In 1906 he left his hometown to study in Saint Petersburg, where he met Bella Rosenfeld who would later become his first wife and mother of his daughter.

In 1910 he went to Paris, a Mecca for all artists. «The soil that nurtured the roots of my art –he would later write—was the city of Vitebsk, but my painting needed Paris, as a tree needs water not to dry…”

Chagall stood out among his contemporary artists due to his capacity to bring together different resources and styles into one single work of art; conveying love in a work of art has always been hard to achieve yet Chagall would master this through colourful and vibrant metaphors, where his wife often appeared as his favourite model. 

In May 1914 he held a successful exhibition in Berlin but World War I retained him in his country of origin. He was Director of the Vitebsk Arts College, Director of the Jewish Theatre in Moscow, among other activities.  Because Art was regarded differently in his country, he decided to move to France with his whole family in 1923 and he spent most of his life there. In 1937 he was granted French nationality.

During World War II, Marc Chagall was forced to abandon Paris. With the help of American journalist Varian Fry, he moved to Marseille before Fry helped him escape from France, through Spain and Portugal. From 1941 to 1948 the Chagalls lived in the United States.

The time spent in the United States was not easy for the artist as he felt disconnected from his roots despite having reunited with several friends. Pierre Matisse, son of his friend and rival Henri Matisse, became his art dealer and organized several exhibitions in New York.

The only period in which he stopped painting was during Bella’s illness and death in 1944.

Later on Chagall entered into a romance with Virginia Haggard Mc Neil and together they returned to France. After living together for seven years their relationship ended. Virginia left him and took their son David with her.

It was then that the world acknowledged his work: The Venice Biennale Award of 1948, exhibitions in Israel, Rome, Naples, Capri, Torino, Ravenna, and London.

Valentina (Vava) Brodsky entered the scene and Chagall married her in July 1952. They remained together ever after.

In 1958, Chagall started illuminating interiors with his stained glass windows. He first worked on the Metz Cathedral and the Fraumünster in Zurich, followed by the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

He had already achieved world fame and attained distinction and recognition on behalf of the Jewish people who had been massacred and persecuted. His moment of glory came eight years before his death, when his art was exhibited at the Louvre. The following year he was invited to Palazzo Pitti, in Florence.

His fascination with lithography, a technique he is famous for, came later in his life.  On March 28, 1985 he passed away peacefully.

The exhibition that Museo Ralli Punta del Este is proud to display, was purchased by our institution in the 70s and shows the designs created by the artist for the Hadassah Medical Centre of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; they represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Charles Sorlier, a personal friend, collaborator and master printmaker, was in charge of printing them.