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Marc Chagall

biography

Vitebsk (Russia Bianca) 1887 - Saint-Paul-de-Vence (Francia) 1985

1887 Marc Chagall was born in Vitebsk (White Russia) on 7 July 1887, the eldest of eight children. He attended a  heder, a Jewish primary school for seven/eight years and was then admitted to a public school.
1906 He was taken on in the atelier of the artist Yehuda Pen, but only stayed there for two months. At the same time he worked as apprentice photo-retoucher with a local photographer.
1907 He headed for Saint Petersburg, where initially he led a poverty-stricken life. To begin with, he again worked for a photo-retoucher. Living on the breadline and malnourished, he was forced to live in the most wretched lodgings. Jews needed a special authorisation to live in Saint Petersburg and since such authorisation was granted to artisans, Chagall decided to become a sign-painter and embarked upon the appropriate apprenticeship. However, he failed the final exam. The lawyer and patron, Goldberg, took Chagall under his wings and had him move to his house under the pretext of working as a servant (in order to gain the residence permit). He then entered a school which had been founded by the Imperial Society for the Protection of Fine Arts. He left this school in 1908 Armed with a recommendation, he applied to Bakst, who was at that time director of the Svanseva school, where there reigned a more liberal and modern spirit than anywhere else.
1909 He continued his studies with Bakst. He made various trips to Vitebsk, where he met, in his home town, Bella Rosenfield, his future wife, although he wasn't to marry her until 1915, after his first stay in Paris.
1910 Chagall left Saint Petersburg for Paris, thanks to a scholarship provided by the patron, Vivaner. He immediately took up residence in an atelier, at number 18, Impasse du Maine (today Impasse Bourdelle). He attended several academies, including La Palette and La Grande Chaumière.
1911-1912 During the winter of 1911-1912 or the in spring of 1912, Chagall moved to an studio in La Ruche, at number 2, Passage Dantzig, close to the Villette slaughterhouse. It was in this atelier that he painted his early masterpieces: To Russia, To Asses and Others, The Holy Carter, I and the Village and Homage to Apollinaire. He was only twenty five years old. Chagall forged a profound link of friendship with Blaise Cendrars. He also frequented Max Jacob, André Salmon and Guillaume Apollinaire.  He exhibited three canvases at the Salon des Indépendants, and thanks to an invitation by the sculptor, Kogan, and by Delaunay and Le Fauconnier, he took part in the Salon d'Automne. Through Apollinaire he became acquainted with Herwarth Walden, a great merchant and patron of the arts. During one of his first visits to La Ruche, in Chagall's studio, Apollinaire exclaimed before the works of the artist: "Supernatural!". Surrealism (a movement to which Chagall never subscribed) was in the throes of birth. The next day Apollinaire sent his friend the poem Rodsoge with a dedication. This poem subsequently served as preface for the catalogue for the first great one-man exhibition organised by Walden in the gallery Der Sturm in Berlin in 1914.
1913 He exhibited the great Birth and Adam and Eve at the Salon des Indépendants. He then showed three paintings, Maternity, The Painter and his Fiancée and A Musician at the Salon des Indépendants in Amsterdam. These were than to pass to the Regnault Collection.
1914 The Violinist and Self-portrait with Seven Fingers were shown at the Salon des Indépendants. In June/July his first one-man show took place at the gallery, Der Sturm. On 15 June, after the inauguration of the exhibition, Chagall returned to Russia. He had intended to spend a short time in Vitebsk, but the declaration of war prevented his return to Paris.
1915 He married Bella Rosenfield on 25 July in Vitebsk. He met some great Russian writer: Alexander Blok, Sergei Essenine, Vladimir Mayakovsky and Boris Pasternak. 25 of his paintings, which had been painted in 1914 and 1915 were shown at the artistic salon in Moscow.
1916 His daughter, Ida, was born. He exhibited 74 works, including his first book illustrations and newspaper drawings, at the Dobitchine gallery in Petrograd. The October revolution broke out. The idea of a Minister for Cultural Affairs, comprising three elements was proposed: Mayakovsky for poetry, Meyerhold for theatre and Chagall for fine arts. However, his wife, Bella, begged him not to be involved in this project. They returned to Vitebsk.
1918 Lunacharsky, whom Chagall had met in Paris, became Commissar for the People for Education and Culture and favoured the opening of a school for fine arts in Vitebsk. Chagall was appointed commissar for fine arts and became director of the school. A private room in the Winter Palace in Leningrad was reserved for him. The State purchased twelve of his works at extremely low prices.
1919 On 28 January the inauguration of the Academy of Vitebsk. Among the teachers were to be found Jean Pougny, Lissitzky, Malevich and Pen, who had started Chagall on his painting career. Chagall and Malevich soon found themselves taking up opposing stances on both human relations and artistic notions. In May 1920, Chagall left Vitebsk definitively to settle in Moscow.
1920 He made numerous theatrical sketches and met Alexis Granowsky, director of the Jewish Theatre Kamerny of Moscow, for which he created large murals: Introduction to Jewish Theatre, Literature, Theatre, Dance, Music and The Marriage Feast.
1921 For almost the entire year he taught drawing in the colonies for war orphans, Malakhovka and Third International. He began to write his autobiography, My Life.
1922 During the summer Chagall contrived a way to leave Russia. The poet, Jurgis Baltrusaitis, then Lithuanian ambassador in Moscow, allowed him to send his paintings to Kaunas. After a brief stay in Kaunas, Chagall left for Berlin with his paintings, where Bella and his daughter later succeeded in joining him.
1923 Chagall remained in Berlin from summer 1922 until autumn 1923. He executed twenty six etchings on the theme, My Life, as well as some lithographs, for Cassirer. These were his first efforts in this field. In August 1923, at the request of Vollard, Chagall applied for a visa to return to France, and on the first of September, he was back in Paris.
1924 He settled in a studio at number 101, Avenue d'Orléans. He found himself in the same social circle as Sonia and Robert Delaunay, Marcoussis and Juan Gris. The most important event at that time was the birth of Surrealism. Max Ernst and Paul Éluard wished to have him in the group, but Chagall refused, since in his work he had quite other objectives. A retrospective exhibition at the Barbazange-Hodebert Gallery, where he met André Malraux, who was subsequently to play an important role in his career. They would be bound by a great friendship until Malraux's death in November 1976.
1925 He worked mainly on completing the etching plates for Dead Souls.
1926 Invited by Ambroise Vollard to illustrate La Fontaine's Fables, Chagall started on the creation of about a hundred large preparatory gouaches on this subject. He rented a house, at Allée des Pins, no. 3, in Boulogne-sur-Seine. He became acquainted with the publisher, Tériade and Maillol, Rouault, Vlaminck and Bonnard. First exhibition in America at the Rheinart Gallery in New York.
1927 Again at the behest of Vollard, he tackled the subject of the circus and produced nineteen large gouaches. He signed a contract for painting with Bernheim.
He met Jean Paulhan.
1928 He began the etchings for The Fables by La Fontaine.
1929 He travelled to Ceret with Bella in autumn. They spent the winter in Savoy. A further move at the end of the year. They bought a house, called Montmorency, in the Cité, near the Auteuil gate.
1930 When the etchings for the Fables had been completed, Vollard commissioned a third work from Chagall: the illustration of the Bible.  
1931 Chagall spent from February to April in Palestine with his wife and daughter. He visited first Alexandria, Cairo and the Pyramids. The journey continued by land, including Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and subsequently Safed.
1932 He travelled to Holland to deepen his knowledge of Rembrandt's work.
1933 He travelled to Italy, Holland and England. He also went to Spain, where he was horrified by political events. Retrospective at Basel Museum. Nazis burnt Chagall's work in Mannheim.
1934 A further trip to Spain, in August.
1935 Journey to Poland for the inauguration of the French Institute of Vilno.
1936 He moved to a new atelier in Paris, near the Trocadero.
1937 Chagall took French nationality. A trip to Italy, where he visited the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace in Florence. The Nazi regime ordered the removal of all the painter's works from German galleries. He made new friends: Jacques Maritain, Jules Supervielle, Marcel Arland, Eugène Dabit and René Schwob.
1938 Exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels.
1939 He fled with his family to Saint-Dye-sur-Loire, just before the declaration of war. He was awarded a prize by the Carnegie Foundation.
1940 He decided to withdraw south of the Loire and made for Gordes, in Provence.
1941 After considerable hesitation, Chagall took his family to Marseilles in preparation for his departure from France. On 7 May he left Marseilles for Lisbon and their he found a place on a ship bound for America. On 23 June, the day on which Germany attacked Russia, he landed in New York. There he met up again with Léger, Bernanos, Masson, Maritain, Mondrian and André Breton. He met Pierre Matisse, who became his dealer.
1942 He travelled to Mexico in order to design the stage sets and costumes for the ballet, Aleko, by Tchaikovsky.
1943 He stayed at Cransberry Lake. The war which was devastating Europe appalled Chagall. He expressed his consternation in numerous works, including War, The Obsesion and The Yellow Crucifixion.
1944 On 2 September, Bella died. Grief-stricken, Chagall would be incapable of resuming work for almost ten months.
1945 In spring, after a period of total inactivity, Chagall started to paint again and he designed the decor and costumes for Stravinsky's The  Firebird.
1946 Retrospective at the New York Museum of Modern Art. He created his first colour lithographs for the illustrations for A Thousand and One nights.
1947 Trip to Paris for the inauguration of a retrospective exhibition arranged on the occasion of the reopening of the Museum of Modern Art, after the German occupation. A series of retrospective exhibitions across Europe were held: at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Tate Gallery, London, the Kunsthaus, Zurich and the Kunsthalle, Berne.
1948 Definitive return to France. He settled in Orgeval, near Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Chagall made the acquaintance of Aimé Maeght, who became his dealer in France.  He received the Grand Prix for graphics at the XXV Venice Biennial. Dead Souls   was published by Tériade.
1949 He painted some murals for the foyer of the Watergate Theatre, London. He purchased a house in Vence, called Les Collines.
He worked on his first ceramics. This new expressive technique was to lead him naturally on to the medium of sculpture.
1950 In the spring, he settled definitively in Vence, where he often met with Matisse and Picasso. From that time, Chagall, who kept his apartment in Paris, would make several trips to the capital every year, where he devoted his time particularly to etchings. In Fernand Mourlot's atelier, he created his first lithograph for an exhibition at the Aimé Maeght Gallery. Chagall would subsequently do all his lithographs in this famous print shop, where he also became friends with Charles Sorlier, who was to remain one of his most loyal collaborators. Retrospective exhibition in the Kunsthaus, Munich.
1951 Journey to Israel for the inauguration of an exhibition in Jerusalem.
1952 He met Valentina (Vava) Brodsky, whom he went on to marry in Clairfontaine, near Rambouillet on 1 July. Chagall was by now rightly considered to be one of the great painters of the twentieth century. From that time, thanks to his wife's encouragement, a new phase in his career began, which would see the wonderful work of the Biblical Message, stupendous decoration, including the ceiling of the Paris Opéra, the stained glass windows of Reims and Metz Cathedrals. Tériade publishers asked Chagall to illustrate Daphnis et Chloé by Longus with original lithographs. In the summer he made two trips to Greece with Vava, visiting Delphi and Athens and staying on the island of Poros. He also travelled to Rome, Naples and Capri. Publication of La Fontaine's Fables by the Tériade publishing house.
1953 Trip to Turin for the inauguration of a large retrospective at Palazzo Madama. He worked on preparatory gouaches for Daphnis et Chloé.
1954 In autumn, he again travelled to Greece with his wife, first to Poros and then to Nauplía where they stayed for some time. Journey to Ravenna, Florence and particularly Venice, where he again saw, with great emotion, the works of Titian and Tintoretto.
1955 He started the series of Biblical Message paintings.
1956 Exhibition at the Kunsthalle of Basel and then Berne. Publication of the Bible by Tériade.
1957 Retrospective exhibition of etching works at the National Library of Paris. He produced his first mosaics.
1958 In February, he travelled to Chicago, where he spoke at a conference at the city university. He met Charles Marq, master glassmaker, and a friendship blossomed between them. Sets and costumes for the ballet, Daphnis et Chloé by Maurice Ravel,  performed at the Paris Opéra.
1959 He travelled to Glasgow, where he was given an honorary degree by the university. He was elected honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Literature. Retrospective at the Museum of Decorative Arts of the Louvre in Paris. Glass of the second window of the northern apse of Metz Cathedral.
1960 Given honorary degree by the University of Brandeis (United States). He was awarded the Erasmus Prize by the European Cultural Foundation in Copenhagen. First showing of the stained glass windows at the Museum of Reims. He painted the Commedia dell'Arte, destined for the foyer of a theatre in Frankfurt.
1961 Exhibition of stained glass windows The Twelve Tribes of Israel at the Paris Museum of Decorative Arts. This exhibition was also shown from November 1961 until January 1962 at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
1962 In February a trip to Jerusalem for the inauguration of the stained glass windows The Twelve Tribes of Israel. Exhibition, Chagall and the Bible, at the Rath Museum, Geneva.
1963 Retrospective exhibition at the National Museum of Tokyo and the Municipal Museum, Kyoto. Stained glass window of the northern transept of Metz Cathedral.
1964 Exhibition of stained glass windows at the Museum of Fine Arts, Rouen. Trip to Rouen for the inauguration of the glass panel, Peace, at the United Nations Headquarters. Inauguration of the ceiling of the Paris Opéra, commissioned by General De Gaulle.
1965 Awarded honorary degree by the University of  Nôtre Dame (United States).
1966 Chagall left Vence to settle at Saint-Paul (Alpes Maritimes). He worked on two large murals for the Metropolitan Opera of New York. He executed eight stained glass windows for the Chapel of Pocantico Hills, New York.
1967 Journey to New York for the inauguration of the new Metropolitan Opera. On 19 February, premiere of Mozart's Magic Flute, with costumes and sets by Chagall. Retrospective exhibitions in Zurich and Cologne. Exhibition of Biblical Message, donated by Marc and Vava Chagall to the Louvre Museum, Paris.
1968 Trip to Washington. He executed a mosaic (three metres by eleven) on the theme of Ulysses, for the University of Law and Economic Sciences of Nice. Stained glass panels for the triforium of the north transept of Metz Cathedral.
1969 Journey to Jerusalem for the inauguration of the new Parliament on 18 June. For this building he had designed mosaic floors, a mosaic mural entitled The Wailing Wall and three large arrases with a total surface area of one hundred square metres.
1970 Retrospective of etchings at the Paris National Library. Inauguration of stained glass windows of Fraumunster Church in Zurich.
1971 He spent the spring in Zurich, working on a large mosaic mural, for the National Museum of Biblical Message in Nice, entitled Elijah's Chariot.
1972 Exhibition at the Museum of Budapest. He created stained glass windows for the concert hall of the the National Museum of Biblical Message in Nice, entitled The Creation of the World.
1973 At the invitation of Jekaterina Fursteva, Soviet Minister for Culture, he went to Moscow and Leningrad with his wife in June. Exhibition organised by the Soviet Government at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. On 7 July, his birthday, the inauguration of the Marc Chagall National Museum of Biblical Message, in Nice, in the presence of his friend, André Malraux.
1974 Exhibition at the National Gallery of East Berlin. Exhibition of sketches for the monumental paintings at Nice National Museum. He went to Chicago, where he received a triumphal welcome, in a city decked out in his honour, for the inauguration of his mosaic, The Four Seasons. This mosaic, consisting of a monumental block, twenty five metres long, five metres high and four metres wide, with decorations on its whole surface, is to be found in the Chicago National Square.
1975 Stained glass window for the Chapel of the Penitents at Sarrebourg (France). This work, of extraordinary size (12m by 7.6 m) is on the subject of peace.
1976 Inauguration of a mosaic for the Chapel of  Sainte-Rosalie aux Arcs (Var). In September, to Florence, where one of his self-portraits was hung definitively in the Uffizi Gallery.
1977 On 1 January, he was awarded the Legion of Honour Grand-Croix, the highest grade of this honour, presented by President of the French Republic, during a lunch at the Elysée Palace. He created some stained glass windows for the Church of Saint-Étienne, in Mayence. Exhibition of recent paintings at Nice National Museum.
1978 In June a trip to Italy to attend the opening of an exhibition of his recent works at the at the Pitti Palace in Florence. In September, the inauguration of the stained glass windows for the Church of Saint-Étienne, in Mayence. In October, the inauguration of a stained glass panel in Chichester Cathedral (England).
1979 Inauguration of stained glass windows created for the Art Institute of Chicago.
1980 At the request of Aimé Maeght, he designed fourteen lithographs of 1.2 by 0.8m format. These plates will endure as one of the greatest achievements in the history of colour lithography and once again attest to the eternal youth of such an outstanding artist.
1985 Chagall died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence on 28 March, at the age of ninety seven.

exhibitions

  • 10/11/2006
  • BRAQUE, CHAGALL, PICASSO. OPERE GRAFICHE
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  • 03/23/2012
  • LAS FABULAS DE LA FONTAINE (LE FAVOLE DI LA FONTAINE)
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  • 05/03/2010
  • LA BIBBIA DI MARC CHAGALL
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  • 09/23/2015
  • Marc Chagall e la Bibbia
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publications