Marc Chagall

Nationality: French

Birth Year: 1887

Death Year: 1985

Place of Birth: Vitebsk, Belorussia

Place of Death: Saint-Paul, France

Specialities: Folk, Naïve, & Outsider Art, Modern Art


Marc Chagall’s dreamy, poetic landscapes fused with religion and fantasy made him one of the most celebrated Russian artists of the 20th century. His work spans a variety of mediums (as with many early Modernists) including painting, production design, stained glass, ceramic, tapestries and illustrations. His art is characterized by strong, bright colors and images suffused with a child-like joyousness.

Early Life

The eldest of nine children, Moishe Segal was born in July of 1887 to a poor Hassidic family in Liozna, near the city of Vitebsk. His father worked for a herring merchant while his mother sold groceries from their house. His grandfather was employed as a cantor in a synagogue. Vitebsk had a population of less than 70,000 at the time, and more than half that population was Jewish. Hence Chagall grew up in a deeply religious community that had had its roots in Belarus for over 150 years, and the influence of that culture is imprinted upon his work.

He attended Jewish primary school as a child before bribing his way into a secular gymnasium, even though Tsarist Russian disallowed such intermingling. In 1906, he was admitted into Yehuda Pen’s private art school for two months.

St. Petersburg

The next year Chagall moved to the Russian capital with 27 rubles in his pockets. The policy regarding the movement of Jewish citizens was more discriminatory at that time and the young artist resorted to begging favors from influential members of his community. He lived on a stringent budget, often going hungry, but he found himself at the vortex of a cultural and political revolution. Magazines expounded the tenets of French Fauvism, Italian Futurism, German Expressionism – introducing new ideas to a new generation.

Chagall absorbed the fresh concepts put in front of him while developing his own reference points that were based in the past. For two years he studied art at Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting while working at the Jewish magazine Voskhod in an editorial capacity. He attended workshops and courses by artist Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, and in 1910 mounted his first exhibition at the editorial office of the magazine Apollon.

It was during his time in St. Petersburg that Chagall met Bella Rosenfeld, the daughter of a jeweler, and fell in love. Although they would not marry till 1915, she became Chagall’s muse and her influence on his internal world is evident in his work.


Maxim Vinaver, a prominent Jewish lawyer and leader, offered the young painter a scholarship in 1910, and Chagall moved to Paris to rent a studio. During his time there, he attended various lectures and classes at free academies, visited exhibitions and salons in the day and painted by night. He began living in a building called La Rouche, which served as an art center for poor foreign painters and Parisian bohemians. His closeness to the poets and painters of the day resulted in an accelerated output of many seminal pieces within a short period of time, including “The Violinist”, “To My Betrothed”, “Paris Through the Window”, “Golgotha”, “The Pinch of Snuff”, “The Cattle Dealer” and “I and the Village”.

Marc Chagall exhibited scores of canvases and over one hundred watercolors in Berlin in 1914. A few more casual shows along with other artists were popular with the public and commercially successful. He returned to Vitebsk the following year to marry Bella and visit his family. But the First World War started and delayed Chagall’s return to Europe indefinitely.

The World Wars

With the help of his wife’s brother, Chagall avoided enlistment in the army by finding work at the Military Industrial Committee as a painter. He spent the next eight years of his life living and working in Moscow. Chagall only returned to France with his family in 1923 and in the subsequent years created “The Bible” illustrations. But by the late 1930s, the Nazis gained power, and once the Second World War started, he once more had to be hurriedly extricated from France, along with other artists, through a rescue operation run by the Americans. His work from this difficult political period was multidimensional – some paintings are charged with a new energy for everyday life while others reflect grief and hardship. The increasing persecution of Jews resulted in a number of intensely religious pieces, including “Red Jew” and “The Feast of the Tabernacles”. Chagall also focused on his personal love for his wife, using her as a model for “Bella with White Collar” and finding inspiration in their relationship for “Pink Lovers” and “Birthday”.

The Last Years

It was in August 1944 that the family learnt that Paris had been finally liberated from the Nazis. They were impatient to return to France, but within days of learning of the end of the war, Bella passed away of sepsis. Struck with grief, Chagall produced two works in memory of his first love: “Around Her” and “The Wedding Lights”.

Marc Chagall continued to work well into his late nineties, creating paintings, mosaics, sculptures and sets. He died in the elevator of his studio building, after a long day of hard work.

Date of Birth: July 6, 1887

Place of Birth: Liozna, Russian Empire

Date of Death: March 28, 1985

Place of Death: Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France

Occupation: Painting, Stained Glass, Sculpture

Movement: Cubism, Expressionism

Education: Zvantseva School of Drawing and Painting

Artist statement

Will God or someone give me the power to breathe my sigh into my canvases, the sigh of prayer and sadness, the prayer of salvation, of rebirth?

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Marc Chagall

Garden of Eden from 'Drawings for the Bible', New York

August 26, 2015


Marc Chagall

The young Methymna (from Daphnis and Chloe), New York

August 25, 2015


 La chatte m?tamorphos?e en femme, pl. 25, from fables de la fontaine (v. 118; C. bk. 22), 1592 by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

La chatte m?tamorphos?e en femme, pl. 25, from fab

Bonhams, Los Angeles

August 17, 2015

$1,375  USD

 Two Plates from Dessins pour la Bible by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Two Plates from Dessins pour la Bible

Skinner, Marlborough

August 13, 2015

$738  USD

 Le Christ ? l'horloge by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Le Christ ? l'horloge

Galerie Bassenge, Berlin-Grunewald

July 22, 2015

$3,312  USD

 Cirque au clown jaune by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Cirque au clown jaune

Galerie Bassenge, Berlin-Grunewald

July 22, 2015

$4,968  USD

 Untitled by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall


Bonhams, San Francisco

July 20, 2015


 Le Th? Du Matin, Pl. 18, From Les Ames Mortes (V. 19; C. bk. 17) by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Le Th? Du Matin, Pl. 18, From Les Ames Mortes (V.

Bonhams, San Francisco

July 20, 2015

$812  USD

 Dos Contes Series (B.471). Untitled by Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall

Dos Contes Series (B.471). Untitled

Clark Cierlak Fine Arts, Sherman Oaks

July 18, 2015

$600  USD


Rolling Stones Bassist's Cars and Pre-War Aston Martin Racer Star in Bonhams Festival of Speed Sale

By Michelle Tay | May 6, 2015

Get ready to rock and roll at Bonhams’ Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale on June 26: the cars that transported former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman from hit album to hit album are being put on...

“Marc Chagall: Enchanted Dreams” at Opera Gallery Singapore

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop | April 28, 2015

Opera Gallery is presenting an exhibition dedicated to Marc Chagall, the celebrated Franco-Russian artist whose poetic works fuse fantasy and religion.Running May 1‑17, “Marc Chagall: Enchanted...

Painting for the Label: Usher the Year of the Ram with Mouton Rothschild

By Nicholas Forrest | December 29, 2014

Wine connoisseurs have yet another reason to indulge in a bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild, with 2015 being the Chinese Year of the Ram (Sheep/Goat) – an animal that is also the emblem of...

Fashion and Textile Museum in London Showcasing Art Prints

By Michelle Tay | February 9, 2014

LONDON— The Vorticist painter Wyndham Lewis and the artists of Bloomsbury's Omega Workshops — including Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, and Roger Fry — were among the first artists in the 1910s to...

Gurlitt List May Be Released, France to Burn Fake Chagall, and More

By Ashton Cooper | February 3, 2014

— Full List of Gurlitt Works May Be Released: A court in Augsburg, Germany has ruled that the list of the 1,400 works uncovered in the Munich apartment of Cornelius Gurlitt must be...

Fighting Fire with Fire: £100k Fake Chagall to be Burnt

By Ashitha Nagesh | February 3, 2014

A painting owned by British collector and property developer Martin Lang is to be burnt in France after being confirmed on a BBC show as a fake. Lang purchased the painting, originally believed...

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'Marc Chagall: Enchanted Dreams' at Opera Gallery

By Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop | April 28, 2015


Prints & Multiples

Apr 28 - Apr 28, 2015

Doyle New York, New York

Modern Masters

Jan 22 - Jan 22, 2015

Auctionata, Inc., New York

American & European Fine Art

Dec 3 - Dec 3, 2014

Auctionata, Inc., New York

Chagall: Modern Master

Jun 9 - Oct 6, 2013


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