Marc Chagall is justly famed as one of modernism’s greatest colorists, and its most articulate painter of dispossession, exile and human joy. Chagall also uniquely reconciled the motifs and concerns of Jewish culture with his strange amalgam of Symbolism, Fauvism and Cubism. His lifespan encompassed two world wars, the October Revolution of 1917 and continual uprooting, with lengthy spells in Paris, Moscow and New York; although he painted the ravages of these wars and the sufferings of the Jewish people, and although his art is steeped in the melancholia of exile, it never ceased to affirm life and to praise it.
This beautifully produced volume, with its abundance of color plates and first-rate scholarship, celebrates Chagall in all his diversity, reproducing paintings, book illustrations to the Bible and works by Gogol and La Fontaine, stained glass, stage sets, ceramics, tapestries and prints. These works are contextualized in essays by Chagall scholars Meret Meyer, Jean-Louis Prat, Ekaterina Selezneva, Angela Lampe and Ángeles Caso, and in an extensive chronology of the artist’s life, amply illustrated with photographs from his personal album.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was born in Liozna, near Vitebsk, Belarus, a major center of Hassidic culture in the Russian empire. In 1906 he moved to St Petersburg, Russia, enrolling in art school before moving to Paris in 1910, where Apollinaire, Delaunay and Léger were among his earliest advocates. Chagall’s reputation began to grow during his Moscow years (1914-1922), but it was not until some five years after his return to Paris that his first major exhibitions took place. Two years into the Second World War, Chagall went into exile again, living in New York until 1948. The major triumph of his last decades was perhaps his ceiling for the Paris Opera (1963), which astounded both critics and the wider public.