Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Despite its name, the painter Marc Chagall was more important that Belarus had ever had. Born in Liosno on 7th July 1887, his real name was Moishe Segal; the Russian name was Mark Zakharovic Sagalov, abbreviated Sagal, which according to the transcript would have become French Chagall. Born into a family of Jewish culture and religion, son of a herring merchant, he was the eldest of nine children. From 1906 to 1909 he studied first in Vitebsk, then at the Academy of St. Petersburg. Among his teachers there were Léon Bakst, a Russian painter and stage designer, a scholar of French (in 1898 he co-founded with impresario Diaghilev the theatrical avant-garde group “The World of Art”). This was a difficult period for Chagall because the Jews could live in Petersburg only with a permit and for short periods. In 1909, when he frequently came back home, he met Bella Rosenfeld, who became his wife. In 1910 Chagall moved to Paris and he knew the new fashion trends. In particular, he approached the Fauvism and Cubism. Among the artistic avant-garde in France, he attended numerous personalities who kept buzzing cultural environments. These included Guillaume Apollinaire, Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger. Marc Chagall exhibited his works in 1912 both at the Salon des Indépendants and at the Salon d’Automne. Delaunay submitted it to the Berlin merchant Herwarth Walden, who in 1914 organized a solo exhibition in his gallery “Der Sturm”. Marc Chagall was back in Vitebsk at the beginning of the war. In 1916 is first daughter Ida was born. In his native city he founded the Art Institute of which he didn’t become director until 1920. His successor would have been Kazimir Malevich. Chagall turned up in Moscow, where he created the decorations for the Jewish theatre state “Kamerny. In 1917 he actively participated in the Russian Revolution so much that the Soviet Minister of Culture appointed Commissioner Chagall art in the Vitebsk region. Pear will not succeed in politics. In 1923 he moved to Berlin and then he returned finally to Paris. In this period, he published his memoirs in the Yiddish language, written originally in Russian and then translated into French by his wife Bella. The painter also wrote articles and poems published in various journals and collected – posthumously – in book form. In Paris, he re-established a communication with the cultural world that had left and met Ambroise Vollard, who commissioned the illustration of several books. In 1924 there was a major retrospective of Chagall at the Galerie Barbazanges-Hodeberg. He travelled extensively in Europe but also in Palestine. In 1933 he organized a major retrospective at the Museum Art Basel in Switzerland. While in Europe we were witnessing the rise to power of Nazism, all the works of Marc Chagall would be confiscated in Germany. Some of those listed in the auction held at the Galerie Fischer in Lucerne in 1939. The spectrum of the deportation of Jews brought Chagall to decide to take refuge in America. In 1944 his beloved companion Bella, who had been a frequent subject in the paintings, died. Chagall returned to Paris in 1947 and settled in Venice two years later. Many shows were dedicated everywhere. He remarried in 1952 with Valentina Brodsky (called “Vava”). Moreover he had started in those years a series of decorations of large public buildings, like a window for the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital’s synagogue in Israel created in 1960; the windows he designed in 1962 for the synagogue of Hassadah Medical Centre near Jerusalem and the cathedral of Metz; the ceiling paintings of the Paris Opera he realized in 196; the large murals on the facade of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York he created in 1965; the stained glass rose window of the choir and Fraumünster Zurich he created in 1970. Marc Chagall died in Saint-Paul de Vence on 28th March 1985, at the age of 97 years.