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| Home | About Belarus | Famous Belarusians | Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall is one of the most famous natives of Belarus. A talented artist, a brilliant representative of the 20th century avant-garde, he conquered the world with his unique style and special outlook on life.

Marc Chagall’s Bio

Marc Chagall was born in Vitebsk, 6 July 1887, in a family of small merchant Khatskl (Zakhar) Chagall and became the eldest of nine children. Years later he always celebrated his birthday on 7 July.

On turning 19, with the blessing of his mother Feige-Ite, Marc enrolled in the school of famous Vitebsk artist Yehuda Pen who recognized his talent and invited the young man to study free of charge. A few months later, the artist went to St. Petersburg to study.

For several years the young Chagall attended the Drawing School of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (then directed by Nicholas Roerich), later the Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting where his mentors were the famous Leon Bakst and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky.

In 1910 Chagall continued his studies in Paris: he attended classes at the free academies of fine arts, attended all kinds of exhibitions and galleries, learned about the new styles in art: Cubism, Futurism, orphism… and developed his own unique style.

In June 1914 Berlin hosted Marc Chagall’s first exhibition which brought together almost all paintings and drawings written in Paris. It was a success and Chagall became famous.

Before the First World War in 1914 Marc Chagall returned to his native Vitebsk and on 25 July 1915 celebrated a wedding with Bella Rosenfeld, a woman who became his greatest love and inspiration for life.

After the revolution in 1917 Marc Chagall was appointed Commissioner for Art in Vitebsk Province. He founded a people's art school. The school teachers included Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Ivan Puni, Ksenia Boguslavskaya, Vera Ermolaeva, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich.

During this period he painted his famous Over The Town, The Wedding, The Promendae. The work in the school became a disappointment for Chagall due to creative differences with his colleagues.

In 1920, the artist went to Moscow where he designed costumes and decorations for the Jewish Chamber Theater. Later he again moved to Berlin and Paris where he reunited with his old friends and made new ones: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard…

At the start of the Second World War Marc Chagall and his family moved to the United States. He was planning to go back to France in a short while but his wife Bella died suddenly in 1944. After a long hiatus he painted pictures The Wedding Candles and Around Her to commemorate his love.

Marc Chagall returned to Europe in 1948. In the post-war years his artwork turned biblical. Many etchings to French Bible publications, paintings, engravings, stained glass and espaliers made up the artist’s Biblical Message to the world, for which he opened a museum in Nice in 1973. The French government recognized this collection as an official national museum.

In 1953 the artist met Valentina Brodskaya, his second wife.

In 1977 Marc Chagall received the French Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor. An intravitam exhibition of his works was organized in Louvre to mark the 90th birthday of the artist. Contrary to all the rules, the paintings of the living master were displayed in this famous museum.    

Marc Chagall died in 1985 in the city of Saint-Paul-de-Vence, south-east of France.

Marc Chagall: Paintings and Art Heritage

Marc Chagall’s artworks impress with their diversity and do not lend themselves to strict classification. The author’s style, blending expression and unconventional artistic manner, was influenced by cubism, fauvism, and orphism. One can see the artist’s worldview and religious commitment in his works.

Among Chagall’s most famous paintings is I and the Village, Dedicated to My Fiance, Homage to Apollinaire, Golgotha, Paris Through the Window, Birthday, Over the Town, The Blue House, The Promenade, Loneliness, White Crucifixion, Wedding Candles, Exodus, Bridges over the Seine, War…

True to his style, Marc Chagall experimented with various techniques and genres throughout his life. His creative heritage includes book illustrations, graphics, scenography, mosaics, stained glass, espaliers, sculpture and ceramics…

Book illustration became one of the most fruitful areas of work for Marc Chagall. Many well-known writers such as Andre Breton, Andre Malraux, Blaise Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire considered him an embodiment of a literary painter that turned poetic lines into fantastic images.

Original works by Marc Chagall decorate the world’s biggest theaters. In 1964, the artist painted the ceiling of the Paris Opera House, Palais Garnier. In 1966 he created murals “The Triumph of Music” and “The Sources of Music” for the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Marc Chagall was one of the first artists to use easel painting for creating theater sets. In the 1940-1950s, he jointly with Leon Bakst designed the sets for the legendary Sergei Diaghilev's Russian Seasons, the ballets Aleko, The Firebird, Daphnis et Chloe…  

In the early 1960s, the world-famous artist took an interest in monumental art and interior design. Marc Chagall designed mosaics and tapestries for the parliament building in Jerusalem, the stained-glass windows for a synagogue and the Hadassah Medical Center. After that he received numerous orders to decorate Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches as well as synagogues all over Europe, America and Israel.

The artist also left his imprint in literature. His poems, essays, and memoirs were published in the Jewish language and translated into Hebrew, Russian, Belarusian, English, and French during his lifetime. Marc Chagall’s autobiography My Life earned the world's recognition.   

Films and Theatrical Productions About Marc Chagall   

The film Chagall - Malevich directed by Alexander Mitta was premiered in 2014. It depicts the relationship between two artistic geniuses who lived and worked in the Belarusian city of Vitebsk in the 1918-1920s.

The national film studio Belarusfilm is working on an animated film about Marc Chagall based on his autobiography My Life. The film will show the main events of the artist’s life during the Vitebsk period and tell his thoughts, feelings, and vision of the world with the help of paintings.

The city of Vitebsk celebrated the 100th anniversary of the wedding of Marc Chagall and Bella Rosenfeld with a cultural project “Wedding Extravaganza – Lovers Over the Town”. A symbolic Jewish wedding ceremony was conducted near the House of Marc Chagall in summer 2015.

The production Chagall…Chagall… which won the main prize at the international festival in Edinburgh in 2000 returned to the stage of the Yakub Kolas National Academic Drama Theater in Vitebsk.

Exhibitions in Belarus

The first exhibition of paintings by Marc Chagall was held in Belarus in 1997 on the initiative of the artist’s granddaughters Bella Meyer and Meret Meyer Graber who came up with the idea to celebrate the anniversaries of Marc Chagall's birth with new interesting projects every year.

In 1997-2005 Belarus hosted exhibitions dedicated to different periods of art work of the artist: “Marc Chagall. Works of the Mediterranean Period”, “Marc Chagall. Dedicated to Paris”, “Marc Chagall. Landscape Art”, “Marc Chagall and the Stage”, “Marc Chagall. Color in the Black and White”.

In 2012-2013 the National Art Museum of Belarus hosted the exhibition “Marc Chagall: Life and Love” from the collections of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

As part of the international project Marc Chagall’s works connected with the world literature, namely drawings, illustrations to the pastoral novel Daphnis and Chloe, Nikolai Gogol’s novel Dead Souls, Jean de La Fontaine’s Fables, the artist’s autobiography My Life and the books of his muse Bella Rosenfeld The Burning Lights, First Encounter and My Notebooks, were brought to Belarus.

Marc Chagall’s Family

The only daughter of Marc Chagall and Bella Rosenfeld, Ida, was a guarding angel for her father. She was even depicted as an angel in his paintings.

After the demise of Bella Rosenfeld, it was Ida who helped Marc Chagall publish Bella’s books First Encounter and The Burning Lights. She was the author of the first French translations of these books.

Ida wrote the biography and books about the Marc Chagall’s art, organized his exhibitions and was the most sincere friend of her father.

Ida and her husband Franz Meyer have three children Piet, Meret and Bella.

David McNeil, an illegitimate son of Marc Chagall and Virginia Haggard McNeil, is a musician and writer.

Interesting Facts

In 2015 the first chocolate replica of Marc Chagall’s painting The Lovers was created at the Museum of Chocolate in Vitebsk on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Marc Chagall’s wedding.

The logo of the international festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk includes a famous cornflower drawn by Marc Chagall. It has turned into a popular brand, a symbol of the artist’s native city and the entire country.

Great Patriotic War monuments in Belarus