Behind the Artist: Marc Chagall

At its height, Modernism rested upon a single conviction: to illuminate humankind’s brutal truths. Unlike many of his avant-garde peers, Russian-born artist Marc Chagall showcased his creative command by envisioning optimism, empathy, and resolve in his work.

Pierre Choumoff [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

As a testament to the human spirit, Chagall’s artistic talent not only rivaled the accomplishments of many great modern masters, it earned their praise.

In Françoise Gilot’s memoir “Life with Picasso,” Pablo Picasso is documented as having famously argued: “When [Henri] Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color is…some of the last things he’s done in [Saint-Paul-de] Vence convince me that there has never been anybody since [Pierre-Auguste] Renoir who has the feeling for light that Chagall has.”

Renowned for his aptitude and innovation in a variety of mediums, including painting, theatre design, tapestry, stained glass, etching, and most of all, color lithography, Chagall’s influence on contemporary visual culture continues to unfold.

Chagall, Marc (after) Femme de Cirque 1960 Park West Gallery

“Femme de Cirque” (1960), Marc Chagall.

Chagall was born Moishe Zakharovich Shagalov in 1887 to a devout Jewish family from Vitebsk, Russia, now modern-day Belarus. The lyrical and often allegorical compositions that define Chagall’s body of work are greatly inspired by his unwavering faith and altruistic outlook. Although Chagall is widely-considered to be the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century, the expressionist master asserted that his artwork does not discriminate or embrace any one system of beliefs. Often celebrated for reawakening art’s poetic capabilities, Chagall underscores humanity as a whole.

Marc Chagall

“La Paix Retrouvee” (1974), Marc Chagall.

To further establish the universality of his work, Chagall did not embrace or align with any singular movement or artistic tradition. Chagall employs many techniques characterized by Cubism, Fauvism, Symbolism, and Surrealism—skewed dimension, non-representational color, transfiguration, and dreamlike imagery, respectively—yet he abided by a unique expression that eludes common classification.

For more insight on Marc Chagall, below are three details highlighting his practice and person.

Possibilities in Printmaking

In 1923, Chagall settled in Paris and became acquainted with Ambroise Vollard, renowned art dealer and publisher who personally facilitated the rise of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, André Derain, Paul Gauguin, and Picasso.

“Les Mimosas” (1967), Marc Chagall.

Vollard commissioned Chagall to illustrate Nicolai Gogol’s “Les Ames Mortes,” and the French literary classic “Fables” written by Jean de la Fontaine, resulting in an extensive collection of some of Chagall’s most evocative works. Chagall also began creating a series of etchings and engravings that illustrated the Bible in 1931 at the behest of Vollard. Chagall created 65 etchings from 1931 to 1939, but the escalation of the Second World War and Vollard’s sudden death halted the ambitious commission until 1952. The artist finally completed the extensive undertaking four years later.

“La Fille” (1927-1930), Marc Chagall.

The Russian master continued to rival the artistic achievement of paint with the technical refinement and emotional charge of lithography. Ironically, Chagall only began to entrust the medium when he was 63 years old, though he is widely-considered to have revolutionized and innovated the practice’s color capabilities.

“Carnival of Flowers” (1967), Marc Chagall.

In 1961, Chagall translated a series of gouache paintings illustrating the love story “Daphis and Chloe” into a historic collection of limited-edition lithographs of the same name.

Park West Gallery offers original examples of Chagall “Daphnis and Chloe” lithographs, as well as works from the series, “Le Cirque.”

Historic Exhibitions and Controversial Ceilings

During his lifetime, Chagall participated in several monumental exhibitions at the Louvre, the Grand Palais, the Royal Academy, the Jewish Museum, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among countless other venues.

“Le Cercle Rouge” (1966), Marc Chagall.

In 1964, Chagall was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Palais Garnier at the seat of the Paris Opera. Although many critics argued that a Russian artist could not adequately interpret France’s history, the Paris Opera ceiling was met with much acclaim and is a hallmark of intellectual and creative achievement.

Judaism in War Torn Europe

Chagall’s charming and optimistic compositions belie the fact that Chagall faced decades of anti-Semitic displacement in his native country, as well as in his adopted home of Paris following World War I and II. In 1940, Chagall, his first wife Bella, and daughter, Ida, narrowly escaped Nazi-occupied France before immigrating to the United States a year later.

The Chagall family was among a group of 2,000 artists and intellectuals who fled to the United States with the help of American journalist Varian Fry in response to the rise of fascism across Europe.

“Nature Morte a la Corbeille d’Oranges” 1965, Marc Chagall.

Chagall returned to France in 1947 and remained there until his death in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1985.

In many ways, Chagall’s work merely rustles toward a dream of universal peace. Chagall affirmed that his work ought not to be viewed as a living picture of the world, but rather as an embodiment of empathy most-capable.

To add a Marc Chagall masterpiece to your collection, contact our gallery staff. Call (800) 521-9654 ext. 4 during business hours or email sales@parkwestgallery.com for inquiries after hours.

Leave a comment

Prove you\'re human. *

Latest News

  • Do You Know How to Take Care of Your Art? Take Our Quiz...

    We love art, and we’re betting you do too. That is why we want to give you some expert tips on how to keep your art looking as beautiful as ...
    Read More
  • Everyone Wants to Take a Bite Out of Artist Matt Beyrer

    Artist Matt Beyrer has an uncanny knack for drawing depth and beauty out of unexpected places.

    So perhaps it’s not surprising that Beyrer’s artistic career began in an unexpected place—on a surfboard.

    Read More
  • The Strange History Behind Salvador Dalí’s “Divine Comedy”

    Salvador Dalí was an unusual choice to illustrate Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy.”Dante’s epic poem is considered one of Italy’s national treasures, a work embraced by both Italian cultural ...
    Read More
  • Collect Original Graphic Works by Salvador Dali in Our New Fall Sale

    Salvador Dalí is one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. Now you have the opportunity to collect works from the internationally renowned Surrealist in our ...
    Read More
  • Meet the Artist: 10 Questions with Patrick Guyton

    Patrick Guyton has combined his passion for ancient art techniques with a tenacious work ethic to create a truly unique body of work.Guyton’s art is a sight to behold. ...
    Read More
  • Park West CEO Provides Insight into ‘Self-Destructing’ Banksy Art

    Famous street artist Banksy has made art history by having one of his paintings elaborately destroy itself immediately after being sold for $1.4 million.The unprecedented stunt took place at Sotheby’s ...
    Read More
  • Park West Auctioneer Spotlight: Alex White

    It takes a special kind of person to head off onto the high seas to spread their love of art to travelers around the world.Alex White is one of those ...
    Read More
  • The History of Picasso Ceramics: How Picasso Changed Pottery Forever

    Between 1946 and 1973, Pablo Picasso created a breathtaking collection of original ceramic works.Over the past 50 years, Park West Museum has developed one of the largest collections ...
    Read More
  • Understanding the Delicate Process Behind the Art of Patrick Guyton

    The artistic process Patrick Guyton uses to create his art is exacting, volatile, and precarious. This may sound hyperbolic, but for Guyton, something as simple as using the wrong ...
    Read More
  • Park West Gallery Enhances the Art Experience with New Interactive Technology

    As Park West Gallery celebrates 50 years in business, it’s continuing its mission of reimagining the art world with new and innovative ways for people to interact with art.Park West ...
    Read More
  • Meet James Coleman: 10 Questions with the Acclaimed Artist

    If you’re not familiar with the name “James Coleman,” you’re definitely familiar with his work.For over 17 years, Coleman supervised the creation of the hand-painted backgrounds for some of ...
    Read More
  • Behind the Artist: Patrick Guyton

    The path to becoming an internationally renowned fine artist might not be paved in gold, and that’s fine with Patrick Guyton—he prefers to put gold to better use.Guyton’s own ...
    Read More