Skip to content



Born in 1887 to a humble Jewish family in Vitebsk, Marc Chagall attended art school in St. Petersburg, going to Paris in 1910 where he quickly immersed himself in avant-garde art circles. His paintings from the first years in Paris combined the fragmented forms of Cubism with the brilliant colors and fanciful images from of the Russian-Jewish folk tradition.

Chagall returned to Vitebsk in 1914 and was caught there when the First World War began. Sympathetic to the 1917 Revolution, he remained in Russia and was appointed the Commissar for Fine Art for his native area. He left this post by 1920 and went to Moscow and Berlin, returning to Paris in 1923.

During the first decades of the 20th century, Chagall created a personal mythology, bringing poetry back into painting through subject matter that does not describe but rather imagines a world of events and sensations, painted without sacrificing formal concerns. He brought metaphor and dreams into French formalism, for his paintings use color and form to organize the emblematic irrationality.

Chagall became associated with the Surrealist group in the 1930's, although his was an art of poetic irrationality and private memories rather than dogmatic Surrealist theories. He spent the years 1941-1948 in exile in New York, returned to France, and then settled in Vence, where he continued to produce paintings, watercolors, prints and illustrated books.