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Marc Chagall  1887 - 1985

Marc Chagall is one of the best loved artists of the 20th Century and was one its most prolific modern masters. He is best known for his unique creative perspective infused with magic realism; his exuberance, colour and his exceptional draftsmanship. He worked as a painter and printmaker and in later years turned to stained glass and theatre design. 


Born in 1887 and raised in Vitebsk, in what is now Belarus, to humble devoutly Jewish parents, art was not allowed in the home due to their orthodox  religious practice. However, Chagall rejected this attitude that man could not paint what God had created and used his art, laced with Jewish themes, to celebrate his heritage. Eventually, he would be asked to illustrate the Bible. Chagall’s life was about more than religion. He was politically charged, passionate about Europe, had strong artistic connections and, as a result, was extremely influential in the development of the Modern art movement.

Chagall and Bella.jpg

'The freer the soul, the more abstract painting becomes'


When Chagall was 20 years old, he set off to St Petersburg where, for three years, he studied intermittently. Eventually, he worked there for a stage designer named Leon Bakst whose teachings would be carried by Chagall for his entire career. Then, in 1910, Chagall, funded by a donation from a patron, moved to Paris. Here, he was confronted by the hive of artistic activity, meeting with fellow artists such as Fernand Léger and Robert Delaunay. Inspired by the Fauvists, Chagall gave up the sombre palette he had employed at home and approached his work with new poetic and, seemingly irrational, tendencies.This four-year phase in Paris is often hailed as the best of his career, during which many of his master works were completed. From his series of works from 1911-1913, Chagall had already become the artist he would continue to be for the next 60 years.


With the outbreak of the First World War, Chagall moved around, from Berlin where he was a respected artist, back to Moscow. Here he was involved, unsuccessfully, in making political art. He decided to leave Russia for good, married his muse, Bella Rosenfeld, had a daughter and settled once again in Paris. He now had new skills. While in Berlin, Chagall learnt how to engrave and began etching. This acted as a springboard for a career in printmaking. In the years between the two wars, Chagall travelled widely. Yet as the Second World War became increasingly threatening, he and his family went to Western France, the in 1941, on to New York. In 1944, his wife died, and her memory became one of the frequent motifs used in his later works. Also in the mid-'40s, Chagall designed backdrops for ballets. He was given a large retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1946.


His work became increasingly sombre and Chagall returned to France. He exercised many techniques and used various mediums, even mastering the difficult art of staining glass, the resulting pieces are considered to be some of the strongest works of his later career. He also continued to design for the theatre and experimented with mural painting. He was awarded a retrospective at the Louvre, Paris in 1977 and died in 1985 at the age of 98.

Slade House collects and owns original lithographs, giclees and limited edition prints by all of the artists represented here - only some of which are for sale online. Please get in touch if you would like to see our wider collection. 

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