Chagall was born in 1887 to a poor Jewish family
in Russia. He was the eldest of nine children. Chagall
began to display his artistic talent while studying
at a secular Russian school, and despite his father’s
disapproval, in 1907 he began studying art with
Leon Bakst in St. Petersburg. It was at this time
that his distinct style that we recognize today
began to emerge. As his paintings began to center
on images from his childhood, the focus that would
guide his artistic motivation for the rest of his
life came to fruition.
In 1910, Chagall, moved to Paris for four years. It was during this period
that he painted some of his most famous paintings of the Jewish village, and
developed the features that became recognizable trademarks of his art. Strong
and bright colors began to portray the world in a dreamlike state. Fantasy,
nostalgia, and religion began to fuse together to create otherworldly images.
In 1914, before the outbreak of World War I, Chagall
held a one-man show in Berlin, exhibiting work dominated
by Jewish images. During the war, he resided in
Russia, and in 1917, endorsing the revolution, he
was appointed Commissar for Fine Arts in Vitebsk
and then director of the newly established Free
Academy of Art. In 1922, Chagall left Russia, settling
in France one year later. He lived there permanently
except for the years 1941 - 1948 when, fleeing France
during World War II, he resided in the United States.
Chagall's horror over the Nazi rise to power is
expressed in works depicting Jewish martyrs and
In addition to images of the Jewish world, Chagall's paintings are inspired
by themes from the Bible. His fascination with the Bible culminated in a series
of over 100 etchings illustrating the Bible, many of which incorporate elements
from folklore and from religious life in Russia.
Israel, which Chagall first visited in 1931 for the opening of the Tel Aviv
Art Museum, is likewise endowed with some of Chagall's work, most notably
the twelve stained glass windows at Hadassah Hospital and wall decorations
at the Knesset.
Chagall received many prizes and much recognition for his work. He was also
one of very few artists to exhibit work at the Louvre in their lifetime.