Marc Chagall, 1887-1985

Marc Chagall was born into poverty in 1887 near Vitebsk in modern Belarus. His father was a counterman clerk in a herring warehouse and his mother managed a small grocery shop. Marc cherished his parents, both during their lifetimes and after their death.When he first went to school, he was amazed that pens and ink had other uses than writing, and he soon became adept at drawing.


Marc Chagall, Apothecary in Vitebsk, 1908

An early modernist, he was associated with many artistic styles and created works in many forms, including painting, book illustration, stained glass, stage sets, ceramics and fine art prints.

From 1907 to 1910 he studied at the Imperial Society for the Protection of the Arts in Saint Petersburg, before moving to Paris

Marc Chagall, as a young man, and Bella, his first wife.

Influenced also by fauvism, his debt to the Orphism, a term coined by Apollinaire, of Robert Delaunay is clear in the semi-transparent overlapping panes of vivid colour in the sky above the city in Paris Through the Window


Marc Chagall, Paris through the Window, 1913, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA


Marc Chagall, Rain, 1911


Marc Chagall, Le Marchand des Bestiaux, 1912, Kunsthalle, Basel, Switzerland

He visited Russia in 1914 and was prevented by the outbreak of war from returning to Paris


Marc Chagall, The Birthday, 1915

He settled in his home town of Vitebsk where he was appointed Commissar for Art in 1918; he established the Vitebsk School of Popular Art from which he resigned in 1920

He moved to Moscow and executed his first designs for the State Jewish Theatre, a Yiddish company established in 1919 and shut down by the Soviet authorities in in 1948.

Marc Chagall, Wall Paintings for the State Jewish Theatre, c1921
Left to right: Dance, Literature, Drama.

He returned, after a short stay in Berlin, to Paris in 1923 where the following year he had his first retrospective.

During the 1930s he travelled to Palestine, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland and Italy.


Marc Chagall, The Vision, c1937, Tate Gallery, London


Marc Chagall, Autumn in the Village, c1940

During WW2 he fled to the USA where he has a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 1946


Photo portrait of Chagall in 1941, by Carl Van Vechten


Marc Chagall, The Crucified  1944, pencil, gouache & watercolour on paper, Israel Museum Jerusalem, Israel


Marc Chagall, Le Coq en amour, 1947, oil on canvas

In 1951 he visited Israel where he executed his first sculptures in ceramics and glass.


Marc Chagall, Lovers with Bouquet, 1951-2

Marc Chagall, Sposi Angora, and Fidanzatini, 1954

In the 60s he travelled widely, often in association with the large commissions which he was receiving;

Among these were windows for the synagogue of the Hadassah University Medical Centre in Jerusalem which were installed in 1962, a major breakthrough for him.

A ceiling for the Opéra in Paris,


and the Peace Window at the UN building in New York. With detail

Throughout this time he continued to paint.

There followed windows at Tudeley in Kent


and at Chichester Cathedral where he used red instead of his usual blue,


to match the colour of the tapestry by Ursula Benker Schirmer displayed nearby


Untitled glass sculpture, c1956-53



Reims Cathedral  (completed  1974, with six others


St. Stephen’s Church, Mainz
Installed in 1985

The window in Mainz cathedral, which viewed as a sign of good will between the Jewish and Christian faiths. This was his last major commission and probably his last major work.


He died in the same year, aged 98, and is buried with his second wife Vava Brodsky, in Saint Paul de Vence

MH, Meeting No25, 18 September 2018