My Take on Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall was a Belarusian artist born on July 6, 1887 in Vitebsk. He died in France on March 28, 1985. His work continues to inspire artists to this day.
Marc Chagall was ahead of his time. His career spanned the early, critical phase of modernism in art, specifically the early 20th century, in addition to the late 20th century [including Art after 1945]. Influences like the movement of Cubism show up in his work during Picasso and Braque’s experimentations. Nonetheless, Chagall’s work was always remarkably unique, not confining to a specific movement at any specific time. Chagall created fantasy worlds; people have upside-down heads, animals are anthropomorphic figures, people fly, people appear at odd scales, etc. However, every single decision to depart from reality in his art was based on very precise and personal reasons. This is where the dimension of symbolism takes hold in his art. Chagall’s messages are often personal. The figures of his wives for example, are narrative, like his painting “About Her” (1945) about his deceased wife Bella. Also, he often references his native town of Vitebsk and characters who resided there and sustained the town like farmers.
Chagall was not afraid to take risks. His work evolved, encountering and exploring different themes of personal, spiritual and sometimes religious dimensions. He explored both Christianity and Judaism in his work.
Chagall’s oeuvre was vast. Although profoundly impacting painting as an artistic practice, he also worked in mosaic and stained glass. He brought the fantasy world of his imagination into these media, redefining them.
Mosaic by Marc Chagall
Stained Glass by Marc Chagall
I first encountered Chagall’s work on a school trip to Zürich, in February 2001. Entering the Fraumünster Church in the town center, I was stunned by three, tall stained glass windows that appeared to be quite unlike anything I’d ever seen. Stained glass in general dates back from the Medieval period, and Medieval artwork has very specific pictorial conventions. This particular stained glass not only felt and looked modern, but as a Chagall artwork had elements of fantasy in addition to modern abstraction. Seeing the artwork in the space of the church invited introspection, adding to the spiritual feeling one gets in church.
Researching the artwork of Marc Chagall is distinct from other mainstream 20th century artists. This is due to both his unique, personal approach and the vastness of the media, themes and imagery he experimented with during his long career.
I had a happy encounter with a Chagall piece in Dubai earlier this year. I saw a Chagall painting at Opera Gallery DIFC Dubai on April 30, 2019. This particular artwork is part of the private collection of the gallery.