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Artist: Marc Chagall
Title: Rain
Item No: 39127
Subject: Surreal
Style: Surrealism
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Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall (1887–1985), born in Belarus to a Hassidic family, began his education at a traditional Jewish school in Vitebsk. After studying with a local artist for several years, the artist moved to St. Petersberg in 1907 and continued his studies at the Zvantseva School. Chagall moved to Paris in 1910 and his inventive imagery won immediate recognition in the city's avant-garde circles. Here he began to assimilate cubist characteristics into his expressionistic style. He is considered a forerunner of surrealism. The artist returned to Belarus in 1915 where his support of the Bolshevik Revolution led to his appointment as Commissar for the Arts in Vitebsk in 1918. During his tenure, Chagall founded an art school and museum but, disillusioned with the political environment of Russia, he returned to Paris in 1922, where where he spent most of his life.

Chagall's dream-based imagery was revered by contemporary Surrealists yet he refused to join the movement, preferring to pursue his individualistic path. Chagall maintained a consistent style throughout his long career. His frequently repeated subject matter was drawn from Jewish life and folklore; he was particularly fond of flower and animal symbols. The artist translated his imaginative folkloric imagery to stained glass and designed windows for cathedrals in Metz and Reims. Among his well-known works are I and the Village (1911; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City) and The Rabbi of Vitebsk (Art Inst., Chicago).

He designed the sets and costumes for Stravinsky's ballet Firebird (1945). Chagall's twelve stained-glass windows, symbolizing the tribes of Israel, were exhibited in Paris and New York City before being installed (1962) in the Hadassah-Hebrew Univ. Medical Center synagogue in Jerusalem. His two vast murals for New York's Metropolitan Opera House, treating symbolically the sources and the triumph of music, were installed in 1966. Much of Chagall's work is rendered with an extraordinary formal inventiveness and a deceptive fairy-tale naïveté. Chagall illustrated numerous books, including Gogol's Dead Souls, La Fontaine's Fables, and Illustrations for the Bible (1956). A prolific artist and dazzling colorist, Chagall's vast oeuvre of both religious and secular subjects has gained worldwide recognition. A museum of his work opened in Nice in 1973. His name is also spelled Shagall.