Chagall's art has poetry & magic in it, and so did the man...

Barb Toland Featured Artist

Last week we talked about this quote by famous artist, Marc Chagall. I also listed some of the things I do when I'm feeling too much in my head, and not enough in my heart while creating. Hopefully you'll experiment with some of them, and they'll help you along your creative path.

(By the way, I do want to mention that I'm aware I have many art fans who read my blog, and don't think of themselves as artists or makers. But I hope you know that when I say "following your creative path" I mean anyone who delights in the beauty & art around them, whether making it or appreciating it. Just the fact that you're reading this blog tells me that you enjoy designing your life in a creative & joyous way. So yes, "following your creative path" refers to you!)

Now let's get back to artist Marc Chagall & his work...


Chagall was born in 1887 in Vitebsk, Belarus - and for those of you who aren't familiar with Belarus, it's now a sovereign country, but for many years it was part of the Soviet Union.

He was born into a Hasidic Jewish family, and was quite proud of this. Even though Hasidic Jews at that time were considered inferior to their non-Jewish countrymen, Chagall insisted on infusing the symbolism & imagery from his Jewish heritage & upbringing into his work during a time when it took much courage on his part to do so.

To study art he moved to St. Petersburg, and after a few years there, he then moved to Paris in 1910.

Art historian James Sweeney noted that when Chagall first arrived in Paris, Cubism was the dominant art form, but Chagall "arrived from Russia with a ripe color gift, a fresh, unashamed response to sentiment, a feeling for simple poetry, and a sense of humor."

These were new & unfamiliar concepts to Paris artists at that time, and as a result his first recognition & attention didn't come from painters, but from poets.

Since the hubster is a poet, and he showed up in my life when my inner artist was beginning to claw her way out of the dark - I really, REALLY get that. Even though our art comes alive using two seemingly different mediums, our approach to our work has much in common.

I almost felt like when I read Sweeney's quote, that he was describing the heart where my work comes from!

But I digress...

In 1915 Chagall returned to Belarus and married his fiance, Bella Rosenfeld. She was also a Hasidic Jew, but unlike Chagall she was born into a wealthy family. This quote from his autobiography My Life sums up how deep their love was from the very first time they met...

"Her silence is mine, her eyes mine. It is as if she knows everything about my childhood, my present, my future, as if she can see right through me."

And here's what Bella had to say about their engagement...

"I suddenly felt as if we were taking off. You too were poised on one leg, as if the little room could no longer contain you. You soared up to the ceiling. Your head turned down to me, and mine turned up to you. We flew over fields of flowers, shuttered houses, roofs, yards, and churches."

Now that's amore!!!

A year later, in 1916, they had their first & only child, Ida. The three of them lived for a time in Russia, and then moved back to Paris in 1923.

From 1923 up until 1941 they lived in Paris, and in various other parts of France. Chagall, during this time, continued to absorb the life, culture & art around him, and made significant progress in his work.

Even though he was influenced and inspired by many artists, he incorporated into his work what he saw for sure, but in unique ways that stayed trued to his creative voice.

He would use symbolism & imagery from his homeland throughout his entire art career, and it would always have that dreamlike, "otherworldly" feel to it.

Then during WWII, when it was almost too late, Chagall & his family escaped France within an inch of their lives, and fled to the US. They lived in NYC, until in 1944 Bella died suddenly of a viral infection, which was not treated due to the wartime shortage of medicine.

Needless to say, Chagall was left incapacitated with grief over the loss of his beloved, as well as grieving for the tragedies taking place with the European Jewish community, and the destruction of his homeland.

Then in 1947, Chagall returned to France.

There he continued to thrive creatively, producing a huge & diverse body of work, and participated in several significant collaborations throughout the rest of his life.

Marc Chagall died in 1985 at the ripe old age of 97.

That's an extremely abbreviated version of the very rich, but also on some levels, tragic life of Marc Chagall. Yes, as an artist he was brilliant and successful in his art, as well as in his career.

But the loss he experienced of his beloved, the destruction of his homeland, and the loss of so many of his fellow countrymen, as well as the larger loss of so many innocent lives, was certainly devastating to him.

So now that you've learned a bit about the artist & man, let's dip our toes in a bit more & talk about his work.

As you can see from the Chagall paintings that I've been sharing with you - his work was dreamlike, full of rich imagery, very poetic, and also in many cases, had a sense of playfulness to it. Not to mention his extraordinary use of color & light.

This poetic, figurative style made him one of the most popular modern artists of the 20th century.

While many of his contemporaries were drawn to creating abstract art, Chagall believed in the power of figurative art - while still learning from & absorbing ideas from other art movements like Fauvism, Cubism & Surrealism.

This was his calling, his distinct creative voice, and one that allowed him to stand out in the world of art.

Chagall was not only a painter ... book illustrator, ceramicist, stained-glass painter, stage set designer, costume designer, and tapestry maker were also among his many creative pursuits.

Below are stained glass windows designed & handpainted by Chagall in the early 1970's. America Windows were done in commemoration of the US Bicentennial for the Art Institute of Chicago where they are installed.

That's just about a wrap folks. Now that your brain is saturated with art, make sure you get out in the world this weekend and enjoy some fresh air. We are having brilliant spring weather tomorrow, so you can bet I'll be out there wondering thru the outdoors somewhere.

And if Marc Chagall's life & his art have intrigued you, I encourage you to take a deeper dive at the library, or do some armchair investigation on Google:)

Now it's your turn.

What is it about Marc Chagall's art that appeals to you ... or doesn't? How do you think his life, and the emotional pain he endured influenced his art?

Let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear more about your thoughts on March Chagall and his life's work.

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