6 July 1887 – 28 March 1985


Marc Chagall, the Russian-French artist, pioneered early modernism, showcasing his artistic versatility across various mediums such as painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramics, tapestries, and fine art prints.

Renowned art critic Robert Hughes lauded Chagall as “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century.” However, Chagall himself saw his work as a universal dream transcending cultural boundaries rather than confined to specific people. Art historian Michael J. Lewis recognized Chagall as “the last survivor of the first generation of European modernists,” emphasizing his enduring influence. For decades, he occupied the esteemed position of the world’s foremost Jewish artist.

Chagall’s artistic mastery extended to stained glass, where he crafted magnificent windows for cathedrals like Reims and Metz, as well as for the United Nations and the Jerusalem Windows in Israel. His creative repertoire also included large-scale paintings, notably his remarkable contribution to the ceiling of the Paris Opéra.

Before the upheaval of World War I, Chagall’s artistic journey led him through St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin. During this period, he forged his distinctive style, drawing inspiration from Eastern European Jewish folk culture, resulting in a captivating fusion of modern art.

During the war, Chagall found himself in Soviet Belarus, where he became one of the country’s leading artists and a key figure in the modernist avant-garde. He even founded the Vitebsk Arts College before starting a new chapter of his life in Paris in 1922.

Marc Chagall’s legacy encompasses two pivotal dimensions, as art historian Michael J. Lewis aptly observed. He is celebrated as a trailblazing modernist who thrived during Paris’s “golden age,” synthesizing Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism, and as a significant figure in Jewish art. His work retained an unmistakable Jewish essence throughout his various artistic phases, reflecting his profound connection to his native village of Vitebsk.

In the words of Pablo Picasso, who spoke of Chagall in the 1950s, “When Matisse dies,” referring to another luminary of the art world, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.”

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