- NAME: Marc Chagall
- OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Painter
- BIRTH DATE: July 07, 1887
- DEATH DATE: March 28, 1985
- EDUCATION: Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Vitebsk, Belarus
- PLACE OF DEATH: Saint-Paul de Vence, France
- AKA: Marc Chagall
- Originally: Moishe Shagal
- Full Name: Marc Zaharovich Chagall
- AKA: Moshe Shagal
Best Known For
Marc Chagall was a French artist whose work was generally based on emotional association rather than traditional pictorial fundamentals.
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A group of Americans ran a rescue operation trafficking artists and intellectuals out of Europe to the United States via forged visas, and Marc Chagall was one of more than 2,000 who escaped this way. He arrived in New York with Bella on June 23, 1941—the day after Germany invaded the Soviet Union—and spent most of the next few years in the New York area.
In New York, Chagall continued to develop his signature themes, but in 1942,
a new commission came his way: to design the sets and costumes for a new ballet, Aleko, by Léonide Massine, which would stage Pushkin's The Gypsies and be accompanied by the music of Tchaikovsky. When Aleko—Chagall's first ballet—premiered on September 8, 1942, it was a great success. Also during this period, Chagall designed the backdrops and costumes for Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird (1945), another success.
The course of Chagall's life and art was changed yet again in 1944, when his wife, Bella, passed away. Thereafter, depictions of memories of his wife recurred in Chagall's work; she appears in several forms—a haunted weeping wife, an angel and a phantom bride—in "Around Her" (1945), and as a bride in "The Wedding Candles" (1945) and "Nocturne" (1947).
Before moving back to France for good in 1948, Chagall was honored with retrospective exhibitions at both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1948, Chagall settled again in France, on the French Riviera at Vence. During the 1950s, he forayed into painting and modeling ceramics, stone sculptures and mosaics. In 1958, Chagall designed the scenery and costumes for the ballet Daphnis and Chloe for the Paris Opera, from whom, five years later, he received a commission to paint a new ceiling for its theater.
The choice of artist, however, stirred controversy, as some objected to having a French national monument redesigned by a Russian Jew, while others disliked the idea of a modernist working on such a historic building. Nonetheless, the project went forward with Chagall at the helm, and when it was unveiled, it was a huge hit with all factions, surprising many and vindicating others, Chagall included.
Over Chagall's decades-long career, his use of color captured the attention of viewers, and his varying projects in his later years were no different: In 1960, he began creating stained-glass windows for the synagogue of Hebrew University's Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem—a project that became a spiritual journey for Chagall, once again linking him to his Jewish heritage. Chagall later took on more stained-glass projects, including at the United Nations building (1964); the Fraumünster Cathedral in Zurich (1967); St. Stephen's Church in Mainz, Germany (1978); and the All Saints' Church in the United Kingdom (1978).
Marc Chagall died in Saint-Paul de Vence, France, on March 28, 1985, leaving behind a vast collection of work in several branches of the arts, as well as a rich legacy as a major Jewish artist and a pioneer of modernism. Pablo Picasso famously once said of the artist, "When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is."
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