Marc Chagall (1887-1985) : Russian painter. Again, hard to categorize. Technically a cubist, but the cubism in his paintings was not the interesting part; the color was. He painted scenes (usually scenes from Russian village life) with vivid, Crayola-like colors, often painting objects with the color he felt they should be. Happy green and purple peasants, blue horses, his colors do not match up with the moods they are supposed to represent, but they look right.

Marc Chagall, recognized for being one of the most significant painters of the 20th century, was born July 7, 1887 in Vitebsk, Russia to an impoverished Jewish family. He was the eldest of nine children and showed a passion for art at an early age. Though his father disapproved of his painting, his mother supported him and in 1907 he went to St. Petersburg to study art with Leon Bakst.

Chagall resided in Paris from 1910 to 1914 and while there learned more about the prominent artists in cubism, surrealism and fauvism. Chagall had also been influenced by contemporary Russian painting, and his absorption of all of these styles led to his own distinct, often dream-like way of expression on canvass. While in Paris, Chagall painted some of his most well-known work of Jewish villages, using bright, vivid colors (especially blue) and blending figures from both fantasy and religion. Softly drawn images of animals, lovers, workers and musicians pepper his paintings, virtually always evincing a calm and pleasing emotion. Recurring figures began to emerge in his artwork, including the fiddler on the roof, which can be found in several of his pieces. Though Chagall’s work is said to carry a strong influence of contemproary French painting, it’s extremely difficult to categorize his style. Much of his work seems quite obviously influenced by surrealism also, even though Chagall was said to dislike the surrealist style.

Chagall’s work was displayed often in the Salon des Independants. In 1914 he held a one-man show in Berlin exhibiting pieces that were filled with Jewish images. During World War I he lived in Russia, and in 1917 he was appointed Commisar for Fine Art in Vitebsk. He was soon made director of the Free Academy of Art. Bolshevik authorities came to oppose his work, finding it too modern. Chagall left Russia in 1922 and returned to France. He would remain there permanently except between 1941-1948, when having to flee France to the U.S. during the second World War. Chagall’s anger over the Nazi regime came to show in his art, where he began depicting Jewish martyrs and refugees.

Chagall was also very fond of using Biblical themes in his art. His fascination with the Bible led to his doing over 100 etchings illustrating the book. He worked with a variety of media, including oils, water colors, as well as ceramics, mosaics and stained glass. Some his most famous building decorations are the ceiling of the Opera House in Paris, murals at the New York Metropolitan Opera and decorations at the Vatican.

By the end of his life, Chagall had won numerous awards and had created well over one thousand prints. He was one of very few artists who had their work displayed at the Louvre while he was still alive. He died on March 28, 1985 in Saint-Paul in France.

If you've never really looked at his work I hope you get a chance to. He is my favorite artist.

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