Marc Chagall was born in 1887 to a poor Jewish
family in Russia. He was the eldest of nine children. Chagall began
to display his artistic talent while studying at a secular Russian
school, and despite his father's disapproval, in 1907 he began
studying art with Leon Bakst in St. Petersburg. It was at this time
that his distinct style that we recognize today began to emerge. As
his paintings began to center on images from his childhood, the focus
that would guide his artistic motivation for the rest of his life
came to fruition.
In 1910, Chagall, moved to Paris for four years.
It was during this period that he painted some of his most famous
paintings of the Jewish village, and developed the features that
became recognizable trademarks of his art. Strong and bright colors
began to portray the world in a dreamlike state. Fantasy, nostalgia,
and religion began to fuse together to create otherworldly
In 1914, before the outbreak of World War I,
Chagall held a one-man show in Berlin, exhibiting work dominated by
Jewish images. During the war, he resided in Russia, and in 1917,
endorsing the revolution, he was appointed Commissar for Fine Arts in
Vitebsk and then director of the newly established Free Academy of
Art. In 1922, Chagall left Russia, settling in France one year later.
He lived there permanently except for the years 1941–1948 when,
fleeing France during World War II, he resided in the United States.
Chagall's horror over the Nazi rise to power is expressed in works
depicting Jewish martyrs and refugees.
In addition to images of the Jewish world,
Chagall's paintings are inspired by themes from the Bible. His
fascination with the Bible culminated in a series of over 100
etchings illustrating the Bible, many of which incorporate elements
from folklore and from religious life in Russia.
Israel, which Chagall first visited in 1931 for
the opening of the Tel Aviv Art Museum, is likewise endowed with some
of Chagall's work, most notably the twelve stained glass windows at
Hadassah Hospital and wall decorations at the Knesset.
Chagall received many prizes and much recognition
for his work. He was also one of very few artists to exhibit work at
the Louvre in their lifetime.