Marc Chagall (1887–1985) was one of the most prolific artists of the twentieth century. His work is associated with many modernist artistic styles of that era, such as Fauvism, Cubism, Suprematism, and Surrealism, yet his work resists easy categorization. While much experimental art of the twentieth century led to increasingly abstract artistic expression, Chagall’s images embraced figurative and narrative art that married elements of modernism to more traditional imagery.
Born in the Russian Empire to a Hasidic family, Chagall spent his youth attending local Jewish schools and studying Hebrew and the Torah. Many of the themes he incorporated in his work derived from his early studies. He also discovered his love of art in those days, and in 1906 he began formally studying art, first under the Russian portrait artist Yehuda Pen and then with artist Leon Bakst. In 1910 he moved to Paris—in early paintings like I and the Village the characteristics of Cubism, the leading avant-garde movement of the time, are clearly visible.
Even during this early time in Paris, Chagall maintained his connections to his hometown, both figuratively and literally. His paintings included subject matter from village life, including pastoral scenes and weddings. In many of them, figures float freely in the sky, symbolizing his nostalgic affection for his home. These supernatural elements of his work are considered precursors of the Surrealist movement. He also returned to Russia to visit during these years, and on one of those visits he met Bella Rosenfeld, who he married in 1915. Although the couple had planned to move to Paris after their marriage, the advent of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution trapped them in Russia until 1923.
By this time, his reputation in modern art circles enabled him to travel throughout Europe and the Mediterranean and brought him important artistic commissions. In addition to Jewish themes, his art also incorporated themes from the Christian Bible. In 1931 he traveled to the Holy Lands. Unfortunately, war once again interrupted his career, forcing Chagall and his wife to flee to New York City ahead of Nazi persecution in 1941. He returned to France in 1947, a widower, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Although he is best known for his vibrant paintings, Chagall also produced numerous etchings, and later branched out into sculpture and ceramics. He produced stained glass windows for notable buildings such as the synagogue at the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem and the U.N. Building in New York, and murals for locations such as the New York Metropolitan Opera. He was also noted as an accomplished set and costume designer in his time.
Chagall’s skill in evoking emotion through dreamlike imagery that nonetheless remained grounded in his personal experience touched a chord that resonates with viewers to this day. Nowadays, his most important paintings command steep prices at auction, with the record held by Lovers, which sold for $28.5 million in November of 2017.
For collectors seeking to own a more affordable example of Chagall’s artwork, Auction King offers a selection of high-quality limited edition giclees featuring images that exemplify his unique artistic style. Every piece is authenticated by our expert team so that you can bid with confidence on the artwork that speaks to you. Register today for a free online account to find your next treasure.