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Marc Chagall, the versatile dreamer



The painter, lithographer, etcher and designer Marc Chagall was born on this day, 7 July, 1887. His poetic, figurative style made him one of most popular modern artists in the world. His compositions depict aspects of his personal and family histories and those of Eastern European folklore at large. He also made his contribution to sets for plays and ballets as well as to the world of stained glass windows.

Born in Vitebsk, to a deeply religious Jewish family he moved to St. Petersburg in 1907 after studying Painting in the studio of a local realist, Jehuda Pen. He studied there for three years under the stage designer Leon Bakst at the Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting, where he discovered the genre of theatre set and costume design that became a highlight of his career. Chagall worked in many radical modernist styles at various points throughout his career including Cubism, Suprematism and Surrealism but later on rejected each of them in succession, remaining committed to figurative and narrative art.

In 1910 he moved to Paris where Cubism was the dominant movement at the time. Though much of the French art establishment was still under sway of older 19th century ideas, Chagall was like a breath of fresh air with his ideas of art. His four year stay is considered to be his best phase, characterised by works such as ‘Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers’ (1912), ‘Hommage a Apollinaire’ (1911-1912), ‘Calvary’ (1912) and ‘Paris Through the Window’ (1913). Out of these works, ‘I and Village’ (1911) was among the first expressions of psychic reality in modern art.


The gallery of the Modernist publication Der Sturm was the venue of his first solo exhibition in 1914, after having exhibited in the annual Paris Salon des Independants and Salon d’ Automne. During the 1920s and early 30s, he painted fewer large canvases such as ‘Bride and Groom with Eiffel Tower’ (1928) and ‘The Circus’ (1931), that became more obviously poetical and popular with the general public.


Chagall mastered the difficult art of the stained glass window in the late 1950s, and designed a number of windows at international locations. He produced windows for the cathedrals of Reims and Metz, the UN, the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as the Jerusalem Windows in Israel.


Marc Chagall died on 28 March, 1985, and was buried in France. At the time of his death, he left behind a number of his extensive collections carried out in various branches and styles of art.

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