Biography of Chagall

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Marc Chagall (1887 - 1985)


There can be no doubt that the source of all Chagall's world famous paintings was the Jewish community.

Chagall was born in Vitebsk in Byelorussia, the oldest of nine brothers. In his youth he was taught the Jewish religion and attended a Jewish elementary school until he was nine years old. Thereafter he studied at a school of painting in Vitebsk and later attended art school in St. Petersburg and then in 1910 moved to Paris. There he continued his studies, incorporating the Cubist multiple points of view and geometrical shapes into his compositions. In 1911 he painted Me and My Village and in 1912 Self-portrait With Seven Fingers.

Chagallís career continued with his participation in exhibitions in Moscow and Paris. In 1914 he had his first one-man show at the gallery Der Sturm in Berlin. It was in that same year that he returned to his hometown Vitebsk to marry Bella Rosenberg. The married couple then moved to St. Petersburg. From there he sent 40 paintings to an art show in Moscow which took place in 1915. He continued to live in Russia, sometimes in Moscow and sometimes in Vitebsk, but finally left Russia in 1922 and settled in Paris. From there he continued his constant moving, first to Israel and in 1931 to the Netherlands, in 1932 to Spain, in 1934 to Poland, in 1935, Italy, and then to Germany in 1937, which he left in 1941 to settle in the United States. 

After the Second World War Chagall returned to France and lived in St. Paul de Vence. His wife died in 1948. Then, in 1952, he married for a second time. His second wife was Valentine Brodsky. Between 1952 and 1966 Chagall painted a cycle of pictures called Biblical Message. These pictures are today found in a museum in Nice, France. They illustrate such biblical stories as Jacobís Dream, Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, and Abraham and the Three Angels.

In 1964 Chagall decorated the ceiling of the Paris Opera and in 1965 he painted the murals for the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He also painted in stained glass, designing windows in a cathedral in Metz and in Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem. Thereafter he also painted stained glass windows for the Cathedral at Reims and for the Saint Etienne church at Mainz.

At the one hundredth anniversary of the artistís birth a large exhibition opened in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and at a Chagall museum which was opened in Vitebsk. 

It is said that Chagall occupies a unique place in the world of art. He populated his pictures with angels, flying cows, fiddlers, circus performers, and roosters, creating lyrical poems which proclaimed the beauty of all creation. He had an unwavering belief in the existence of miracles and in the infinite wisdom of the creator.

Shalom uívracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Man's Ascent to Reason (2003) & the forthcoming Football & American Identity.

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