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Artists’ Birthdays: July the 7th – Marc Chagall (1887)

July 7, 2012

Would you like to know it all? We would! That’s why the theme for our Know It All Section for 2012 is Artists’ Birthdays. We hope that these posts will help to increase our and your knowledge in Art History. Lets get acquainted with more painters, lets recognise their artwork and be inspired by the masterpieces!

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Every month we choose three artists for our “Artists’ Birthdays” section, but in June, due to various other engagements, we missed one out – in case you’re wondering, it had to be Antonio Gaudi, a famous Spanish architect born on the 25th of June. I guess we can still remember him and his spectacular buildings same time next year… Meanwhile, to keep the “three a month” balance, we’ll celebrate four birthdays this July.

Let us start with an extremely gifted artist – Marc Chagall.

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March Chagall (1887-1985)

Marc Chagall (7 July 1887 – 28 March 1985), was a Belarusian-Russian-French artist associated with several major artistic styles and one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. He was an early modernist, and created works in virtually every artistic medium, including painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints.

You can find a lot of information about him and his life on Wikipedia (please click here); we will share just a few facts and will instead concentrate on his paintings.

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– Art critic Robert Hughes referred to Chagall as “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century”. According to art historian Michael J. Lewis, Chagall was considered to be “the last survivor of the first generation of European modernists”. For decades, he “had also been respected as the world’s preeminent Jewish artist”.

– Using the medium of stained glass, he produced windows for the cathedrals of Reims and Metz, windows for the UN, and the Jerusalem Windows in Israel. He also did large-scale paintings, including part of the ceiling of the Paris Opéra.

Windows in Metz Cathedral

– Before World War I, he traveled between St. Petersburg, Paris, and Berlin. During this period he created his own mixture and style of modern art based on his idea of Eastern European Jewish folk culture. He spent the wartime years in Soviet Belarus, becoming one of the country’s most distinguished artists and a member of the modernist avante-garde, founding the Vitebsk Arts College before leaving again for Paris in 1922.

– He experienced modernism’s “golden age” in Paris, where “he synthesized the art forms of Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism, and the influence of Fauvism gave rise to Surrealism”. Yet throughout these phases of his style “he remained most emphatically a Jewish artist, whose work was one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village of Vitebsk.” “When Matisse dies,” Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is”.

Colours

According to Cogniat, in all Chagall’s work during all stages of his life, it was his colors which attracted and captured the viewer’s attention: “the colors are a living, integral part of the picture and are never passively flat, or banal like an afterthought. They sculpt and animate the volume of the shapes… they indulge in flights of fancy and invention which add new perspectives and graduated, blended tones… His colors do not even attempt to imitate nature but rather to suggest movements, planes and rhythms.”

Marc Chagall “Paris Through the Window”, 1913

Marc Chagall “The Woman and the Roses”, 1929

Marc Chagall “Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise”, 1967

Subjects

Chagall’s early life left him with a “powerful visual memory and a pictorial intelligence”, writes Goodman. After living in France and experiencing the atmosphere of artistic freedom, his “vision soared and he created a new reality, one that drew on both his inner and outer worlds.” But it was the images and memories of his early years in Belarus that would sustain his art for more than 70 years.

Marc Chagall’s Parents

According to Cogniat, there are certain elements in his art that have remained permanent and seen throughout his career. One of those was his choice of subjects and the way they were portrayed. “The most obviously constant element is his gift for happiness and his instinctive compassion, which even in the most serious subjects prevents him from dramatization…” Musicians have been a constant during all stages of his work.

Marc Chagall “Musicians on a Green Background”, 1964

After he first got married, “lovers have sought each other, embraced, caressed, floated through the air, met in wreaths of flowers, stretched, and swooped like the melodious passage of their vivid day-dreams. Acrobats contort themselves with the grace of exotic flowers on the end of their stems; flowers and foliage abound everywhere.”

Marc Chagall

Information for this post found on Wikipedia.

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