Marc Chagall, Paris through the Window (Paris par la fenetre), 1913



Marc Chagall, Paris through the Window (Paris par la fenetre), 1913, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York
“Great art picks up where nature ends”- Marc Chagall, who was born today, July 7th, 1887, in Vitebsk, Belarus. Chagall has been attributed to many art movements, specifically Surrealism and Fauvism, but it is hard to truly categorize Chagall’s work into these groups. Born into a Russian Jewish family, Marc went to an all Jewish school as a child, something that was mandatory by Russian government at the time due to high discrimination laws against Jews by the Russians. While in school, young Chagall developed a passion for drawing and copying pictures from text books, and much to his father’s dismay, this hobby developed into a dream of an art career. In 1906, Chagall moved to Saint Petersburg, where he apprenticed for a short time under Leon Bakst, who, being a devout Jew himself, encouraged Chagall to introduce Jewish imagery and themes into his work. In 1910, at the age of 23, the artist moved to Paris, aligning himself with the Cubists. While Chagall’s early work may exhibit some Cubist undertone, the artist never fully embraced the movement, and instead chose to infuse his work with a much more colorful, humorous and lighthearted motifs. While in Paris, Marc always felt a rather melancholic home sickness for his native Vitebsk, something that was evident in his work of the time, which depicted small villages, fiddlers, weddings and general merriment. With the works of that time period, Chagall could easily be attributed to Surrealism, as a lot of imagery that he created at the time was reminiscent of Matisse and, Chagall’s personal close friend, Robert Delaunay. On one brief visit to Russia from France, Chagall’s fell in love with Bella Rosenfeld, and upon his return back in 1914 married her, with intentions of coming back to Paris. However, the newlyweds never made it out of Russia, as the WWI broke out, and the couple was forced to stay in Vitebsk. Three years later, the offset of the Russian Revolution of 1917 has thrown Chagall into a political post, one he did not quiet care for as Marc was never a political person, of a Commissar of Arts for Vitebsk. After years of struggle, Marc and Bella were able to save enough money and escape to Paris, however, with WWII looming all around Europe, the Chagalls were ones again treading in dangerous waters, as the rising Hitler’s Nazis had threatened the safety of both Jewish and gentile artists. In 1941, partially due to The Museum of Modern Art’s director Alfred H. Barr Jr, Chagall was granted asylum to the United States, New York City specifically, in light of being added to a list of artists at risk while residing in Nazi controlled parts of Europe. Tragedy struck unexpectedly, however, when right before the end of WWII, Bella passed away from a viral infection. Never feeling at home in New York, Chagall moved to Vence, France, in 1947. Although the artist remarried in 1952 to Valentine Brodksy, and continued painting, his work changed drastically, becoming more melancholy and subdued in its color and subject matter, becoming increasingly less poetic and lyrical, and almost reverting back to Post-Impressionism. Although Chagall’s later work was filled with echoes of pain and loss, the artist received steady commissions for stained glass windows and murals. Most notably, Chagall was asked to paint the stained glass windows for Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem, ceiling of the Paris Opera House in 1963, memorial window Peace in 1964 for the United Nations, and murals The Sources of Music and The Triumphs of Music in 1966 for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City ( Marc Chagall passed away at the age of 97 in 1985, and was considered to be the last surviving modern art pioneer. Pictured here is Marc Chagall, Paris through the Window (Paris par la fenetre), 1913, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, New York

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