Van Gogh •
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Marc Chagall, the magic Surrealist, was born in Vitebsk, Russia; a tiny village that is often the subject of his paintings.
Although he came from a large and relatively poor family his parents recognized his talent and saw that he received art lessons
in Vitebsk before going on to St. Petersburg to study with Leon Bakst, a brilliant
designer of theatrical sets and costumes. It was in St. Petersburg that Chagall had his first contact with European and French
contemporary art. This encouraged him to go to Paris in 1910. He was soon a member of the large group of foreign artists living
in Montmartre and his circle of friends included Modigliani, La Fresnaye,
and Delaunay, among others. Almost immediately Chagall began to paint in his own personal style, using a bright palette and
taking his subject matter from childhood memories. These were at first presented in large Cubist planes that soon vanished
from his compositions. Chagall's first big exhibition was held in Berlin in 1914 where his color and fantasy influenced postwar
German artists considerably.
Chagall himself spent the war years in Russia and was appointed Commissar of Fine Arts for the Vitebsk area after the
Russian Revolution of 1917. He left this post after a disagreement with the Suprematist painter, Malewitsch, and went
to Moscow to paint murals for the Jewish Theatre, finally returning to France in 1922. His reputation was firmly established
by that time and he received commissions to illustrate several books the most important being the Bible, for which he
traveled to the Holy Land. Chagall spent the years of the Nazi occupation in the United States and returned to France to
settle in 1947. Later in his life he divided his time between Venice and Paris, painting, designing stained-glass windows,
and giving away his great public works, such as those for the United Nations, the Jerusalem Synagogue, and the Paris and
New York opera houses. Chagall's painting, with its delicate, undulating line and its brilliant, varied palette, offers a
dream world in which anything delightful may happen as laws of gravity are overturned, fairy tales come true, and gentle
mystics come to life. His world was a happy mixture of dream and reality, fantasy and nostalgia, delight in nature and in
music, and a genuine love of humanity.