Chagall, Marc

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

A soldier the size of a teacup and a fish playing a violin make perfect sense in a dream. They also make sense in the paintings of Marc Chagall, where dreams and fantasy are real, past and present are one, and the laws of gravity do not exist.

Marc Chagall was born on July 7, 1887, of a poor family in the Jewish ghetto of Vitebsk, Russia. Memories of early childhood--happy and sad--fill his pictures, as do themes from the Bible and folklore.

At the age of 20, Chagall went to St. Petersburg, where he studied scenery design. He lived in Paris from 1910 to 1914 and then returned to Russia for a visit. When World War I began in 1914, Chagall decided to remain in Vitebsk.

During the Russian Revolution of 1917, he became commissar of fine arts for Vitebsk and set up an art school there. With his wife, Bella, he moved to Berlin in 1922 and to Paris the following year. In 1941 they left France to escape the conquering Nazis. Bella died in the United States in 1944. Chagall later returned to France, and remarried in 1952. He died at St. Paul de Vence on March 28, 1985.

The art of Marc Chagall is expressed in many forms. His oil paintings and watercolors hang in museums all over the world. His panels and ceiling murals decorate opera houses in Paris and New York City. His work in stained glass includes twelve windows in a synagogue in Jerusalem representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Among his other works are stage settings and costumes for operas and book illustrations. In 1973, the French government honored Chagall by opening a museum in the city of Nice devoted exclusively to his work. It is called the National Museum of the Marc Chagall Biblical Message.

Reviewed by Harold Spencer
University of Connecticut

 

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