A Short Biography of Marc Chagall

March 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

"Hommage a Fernand Mourlot" 1990

Original Exhibition Poster "Hommage a Fernand Mourlot" by Jirlow, printed by Atelier Mourlot, Paris in 1990

Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Marc Chagall lived a life that spanned the 20th century.  He was born in Vitebsk, a  Russian Jewish ‘Shtetl” or village in 1887,  and his young life was made up of family, village, and farm.  His desire to become an artist brought him first to St. Petersburg in 1907and then to Paris where the arts were flourishing. in 1910.  To earn money, he worked as a servant and a sign painter.  Chagall’s paintings were first exhibited in Paris in 1912 when the artist was only 25 years old. His early paintings are rich with imagery from his childhood, chickens, goats, church windows, and throughout his career he revisits the warm and pastoral village that shaped him in a style referred to as naïve realism.

Menton by Marc Chagall

Original Exhibition Poster by Marc Chagall "Menton" printed in Paris by Fernand Mourlot in 1968

Chagall spent WWI back in his native Russia, where he married Bella in 1915. After the war, the two of them spent time in Berlin and settled in Paris where they spent the 1920s enjoying the life of a successful artist in the ‘city of light’.

Chagall was friends with the influential editor and dealer Ambroise Vollard who commissioned him to create book illustrations in the 1920s, and encouraged Chagall to explore the themes of the circus and the bible in his paintings. In 1931, Vollard commissioned Chagall to create 100 etchings depicting the bible, and so The artists and his wife visited Syria and Palestine for inspiration.

"Vitraux Pour Jerusalem" by Marc Chagall

"Vitraux Pour Jerusalem" by Marc Chagall Original Exhibition Poster printed in Paris in 1961 printer Fernand Mourlot

Chagall spent time in the South of France, moving to Gordes in Provence in 1940.  He loved the light, the flowers and the landscapes of the South of France, and these inform his work from this period and going forward. For a second time, the war interrupted his path, and Chagall, Bella and their daughter Ida avoided the occupation by emigrating to the United States at the invitation of the NY Museum of Modern Art. Tragically, Bella died of pneumonia in the states in 1944.

After the war, Chagall settled again in South of France, this time in Vence, Nice where he revisited the themes of the bible, the circus, his childhood, Judaism in his work.  In 1950, at the age of 63, he began to work with the esteemed printer Mourlot in Paris, there he with studied with master lithographer Charles Sorlier. and explored color lithography. “Chagall wrote in 1960, “When I held a lithographic stone or a copperplate in my hand I thought I was touching a talisman. It seemed to me that I could put all my joys and sorrows in it..Everything that touched my life through the years, births, deaths, weddings, flowers, animals, birds, the poor workers, my parents, lovers in the night, the biblical prophets, on the street, at home, in the temple and in heaven. And as I grew older, the tragedy of life within us and around us.”*

"Offrande a Tour Eiffel" by Marc Chagall

"Offrande a Tour Eiffel" by Marc Chagall

Chagall’s embrace of the medium of color lithography is apparent in his work. When working in this medium, artists traditionally begin with a black outline and then produce subsequent color plates.  Chagall built layer upon layer with pure color and the resulting lithographs are so dense that they resemble paintings, with color so lush, it looks as if you could scrape it off the page.

In 1952 Chagall was commissioned to illustrate the pastoral romance of Daphnis and Chloe. That year, he married for a second time to Vava, On their honeymoon, they explored Greece where they fell in love with the ancient story of Daphnis and Chloe. Chagall returned home to Nice and began to work on the series.  In 1958, he was commissioned by the Paris Opera House to create sets and costumes for the ballet of Daphnis and Chloe.  The artist worked closely with the director and the dancers, and his paintings were informed by this. It is interesting to note that the first poster designer, Jules Cheret, studied the dancer Loie Fuller and brought her graceful visage to posters in 1891.  Alphonse Mucha designed stage sets, costumes and jewelry, and Eugene Grasset created wallpaper and volumes of botanical illustration.

"Le Lecon de Philetas" Original Chagall Exhibition Poster 1987

"Le Lecon de Philetas" Original Chagall Exhibition Poster printed in Paris by Atelier Mourlot in 1987

For the remainder of his career, Chagall continued to create beautiful and rich paintings and lithographs filled with mysticism, folklore, romance, the bible, the circus, landscapes , musicians, Russian Judaism.  He was an unparalleled colorist, and was admired for his skill as a painter and a print maker.  He courageously embraced new techniques throughout career and was rewarded with many opportunities and honors.

Chagall was considered to be the ‘last survivor of the first generation of American Modernists’.  Born in 1877, Chagall lived through two wars, made his home in 5 countries and witnessed the impressionists, the fauvists, the symbolists, the surrealists, and the birth of modern art. In 1973, When Chagall was 86 years old, The Musee de Chagall opened in Nice.  Five years later in 1977, The Louvre, which rarely exhibited the work of a living artist , featured  62 his works.

Picasso said “When Matisse dies Chagall will be the only painter alive who understands what color really is.” With the death of Chagall in 1985, the world lost it’s finest colorist. *

*Marc Chagall Printmaker” by James Healy, 2002 from the Weinstein Gallery

Visit our website and click on view the collection select ‘art exhibitions’  to see our new acquisitions.  All of these posters are original art exhibition posters, printed by the esteemed printer Fernand Mourlot.  All are linen backed archivally and can be shipped worldwide.

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