By Sabrina Goldfischer

"If a painter is a Jew and paints life, how is he to keep Jewish elements out of his work! But if he is a good painter, his painting will contain a great deal more. The Jewish content will be there, of course, but his art will aim at universal relevance"
—Marc Chagall, 1933
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The Life of Chagall/Concept:

Marc Chagall spent a lifetime developing his highly unique style. While the galleries of Paris were bustling with Cubist and Fauvist masterpieces, Chagall always remained on the outside. He drew inspiration from these popular art movements, but continued to take his imagery and themes from his hometown in Belarus, and
I and the Village
I and the Village

Jewish motifs and culture from his childhood. Chagall was born in 1887 in Vitebsk. He was a talented painter from early ages, but as he grew up in a Hasidic community, his options were limited. A significant part of Hasidic culture, however, is music and dance. These elements would continue to be folded into his artwork throughout his life. At 19, he went to a Jewish art school, and in 1907, relocated to St. Petersburg for Imperial Study for the Protection of Fine Arts. Chagall was a revolutionary artist, as his training in St. Petersburg encouraged him to continue to use Jewish imagery in his pieces, rising above the negative sentiments towards Jewish people at this time in Europe. Russian Jews were subjected to violent pogroms, and lived in constant fear. He found great success at the Swansea School, in set design, and won fame at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne in 1912. Chagall moved to La Ruche, or "The Beehive" and learned from Amedeo Modigliani and Léger. La Ruche is a small artist community outside of Paris. Chagall once said that "In La Ruche, you died or came out famous."[1] Here his style of painting became airier and further from reality. I and the Village (1911) and Homage to Apollinaire (1912) exhibit these artistic qualities. After living in Berlin for a few years, Chagall moved back to Vitebsk and became their Commissar for Art. World War I broke out in August 1914, so he was unable to return to Paris. However, this actually became very inspiring time for him, as he could paint subjects from his childhood with a first-hand, up-close view. Some of his paintings made from his time back in Vitebsk include Jew in Green (1914) and Over Vitebsk (1914). He also used the war as a subject in some of his works, including Wounded Soldier (1914) and Marching (1915).[2]

Part of Chagall's unique style is the movement in each of his pieces. Each of them are full of life and sweeping planes of color. Hasidic culture and religious rituals involve
Homage to Apollinaire
Homage to Apollinaire
extensive dancing rituals in order to connect to
God, this same usage of movement in his paintings a part of his quest for universal relevance of his pieces. This early exposure to music and dance also inspired his love of opera, and set and costume design. He slowly grew further away from his hometown and became influenced by international art movements, but retained Jewish elements and traditional themes of life in each of his works. Chagall never lost his dream-like, poetic style that made his works so appealing. Although he was influenced by Cubism, Fauvism, Surrealism, and other modernist movements, he continued to reinforce the storytelling elements of his pieces. The symbols of his later works were strongly impacted by his study of the Old Testament in his years of required religious school. His style was abstract in certain ways, he never departed from his depiction of life with emotional, and almost
phantasmagorical imagery, infused with his traditional dance, music, and Jewish culture. [3]

Hasidic Dancing

Vitebsk, Belarus
external image first-locomotive-on-the-oryol-railway-vitebsk-russia-1867-found-in-picture-id464437655external image image019.jpgexternal image 4d3b56dd5558871321df00b0ba825568.jpgexternal image vitebsk_uspensobor_big.jpg

Green Violinist:
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Throughout his early life, cultural conventions constantly reinforced the importance of dance and music in order to connect to God. A person playing the violin was a staple in most celebrations and ceremonies. This fiddler standing upon the roofs of two buildings evoke his rural homeland. [4] This painting, along with "Le Violonist" (1912, also by Chagall), can be considered the precursors and the uncertain inspiration behind the title of the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. Todd Rosenthal, a set designer for the Arena Stage, explained that although fiddlers most likely did not stand on top of houses to play, this concept is "more of an allegory than an actual, physical person." In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, the main character faces a similar dilemma of trying to mix the traditions of the past with the overwhelming styles of the future. He says, "A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no?

Fiddler on the Roof Actor
Fiddler on the Roof Actor

But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask 'Why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous?'
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Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!" [5] Chagall maintains the traditions of his Jewish culture, yet adapts to new movements in order to keep his own balance in Europe's unstable times.

The New York Jewish Museum's curator believes that "his grandfather or uncle was eccentric and often climbed to the roof to be alone." It is also unconfirmed that maybe fiddlers played on houses during funeral processions in old Jewish villages. Whether his image was a cultural symbol or a memory drawn from his past, Chagall continued to pull his imagery from his family's past.[6]

Paris through the Window:

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This painting shows the conflict Chagall felt in with identity. Although he was living in Paris, he could not help but feel nostalgic, longing for his life in Russia. The Eiffel Tower in the background also appears to be divided. The painting resembles the work of Robert Delaunay's Eiffel Towers, but Chagall does not try to show different perspectives. Chagall extracts the elements of beauty and wonder within the scene. [7] This painting blends the outdoors and indoors, the real and imaginary, and the future and past. One of the more literal symbols in his painting is the parachutist jumping off the Eiffel Tower. This celebrates the recent accomplishments of a new parachute safely delivering a man from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the ground. As this man falls into the streets of Paris, Chagall may have included it to show his own daring jump into the modern art world. The person in the bottom right corner is shown peering in two directions to represent his two homes. The blue half symbolizes the sadness he feels when he longs for his home. He holds a golden locket in the shape of a heart in his palm. The other half is much brighter with the eyes looking slightly up, and the chin, nose, and forehead highlighted with luminous yellow.
Chagall brings Jewish visual content back into his piece by showing two Hasidic Jewish people dancing in the background in their traditional garments from Russia. The cat also represents old Jewish mysticism, as some very religious people believed cats were people who sinned before they died and came back as a haunting presence for the family they departed. [8]

The Triumph of Music and The Sources of Music:

The Triumph of Music
The Triumph of Music

Marc Chagall was already very involved with the Metropolitan Opera House before his commission of these murals by their general manager, Rudolf Bing. He had been designing for the Met's
production of The Magic Flute when he was presented with the opera's request.[9] After
The Triumph of Music
The Triumph of Music
completing the pieces in Paris and sending them to New York in 1967, the masterpieces were installed incorrectly on the right and left. Chagall was very disappointed, as he intended for a message to be carried across the pieces in a certain direction. He pondered the new order and came up with a new concept, allowing the incorrect order to work with the new meaning without hesitation. The Triumph of Music is on the left (south) side, and The Sources of Music is on the right (north) side. The Sources of
The Sources of Music
The Sources of Music
Music finds its inspiration in a lyre being played by David-Orpheus, and Mozart.[10] It is meant to show King David strumming a harp, surrounded by figures evoking The Magic Flute. The Triumph of Music illustrates a victorious angel and a trumpet being played, with the sound surrounding animals, dancers, and musicians. [11] Like most of his work, his imagery is drenched in biblical and religious motifs. The importance of dance, music, and the visual arts in his Jewish culture are used in these pieces to create an image all visitors to the opera could relate to.

New York kept him safe during World War II, so these beautiful murals were his way of showing his gratitude.

Sets/Costume Design:
Alicia Markova
Alicia Markova
external image ballet-markova.jpgMarkova Dancing:
Gypsy costume drawing for Aleko
Gypsy costume drawing for Aleko

Drawing of Alicia Markova for Aleko
Drawing of Alicia Markova for Aleko

Chagall was exposed to the theater since his early career. In St. Petersburg he trained under Leon Bakst, a Jewish set designer and artist.[12] After fleeing Europe during heightened waves of anti-Semitism, he became very involved in the ballet, opera, and performance arts. One of his major projects was designing the costumes for the ballet Aleko,
Violin Costume for Aleko
Violin Costume for Aleko
focusing on his costumes for the star of the performance, Alicia Markova. Chagall and Markova were both Jewish. The ballet opened in 1942, and was very well received. It was performed in Mexico City, and the costumes were so celebrated that Frida Kalho, Diego Rivera, and other prominent artists in the audience stood in applause. Chagall joined the dancers onstage, and the company received 19 curtain calls. If the ballet had opened in New York, Chagall would have only been able to oversee the design process from a distance, as per the regulations of the New York stage painters union. The paintings amounted to almost 70 different outfits. Markova became very close with Chagall and his wife. The three of them would look for inspiration together in the bright colors of the marketplace. Bella, his wife, would sew together the pieces of cloth they found. Grace Roberts, a ballet critic, explained her appearance as "With sunburnt make-up, wild hair, and a vivid red costume, her very appearance was a shock, though a delightful one. Nothing was left of the familiar Markova but the thistledown lightness, and authoritative
Queen of the Night
Queen of the Night

dancing style, now turned to the uses of demi-caractère."[13]

Chagall thought that there were only two things that approached perfection: the Bible and The Magic Flute. Some critics thought his costumes took away from Mozart, and made it into more of a trip to a museum. Chagall always loved music, being exposed to it via religion since his early years of life. Mozart was one of his favorites.
Queen of the Night
Queen of the Night
One of the most memorable of his 121 costumes and masks and 39 different stage curtains was that for the
Queen of the Night
Queen of the Night
Queen of the Night, wearing a blue and purple gown painted boldly and with
untamed brushwork. The curator for the exhibition of the costumes' display in the Fenimore Art Museum, Chris Rossi, described Tamino's gold pantsuit to be a counter-cultural piece, "something that would have been influenced by the Beatles, by India... something of what was happening in the world was
sneaking in.” However, the large animal masks many of the characters wear look very dreamlike and whimsical, similar to the imagery he has used in some of his other pieces.[14]

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcShGfjzeO-CuV4OOehGaUHmvfgqshLVially9fGqNyzJSIRdCsK3A
Poster for the Magic Flute
Poster for the Magic Flute
Magic Flute Costume *center- Tamino*
Magic Flute Costume *center- Tamino*
Magic Flute Costume
Magic Flute Costume

Paris Opera Ceiling:

One of Chagall’s most famous and most beloved works is his art on the ceiling of the
external image Palais-Garnier-Paris-Opera-House_1.jpegParis opera. This project took eight months, a 2,600-square-foot canvas, and 440 pounds of paint. When the project was first announced by André Malraux, the French Minister of Culture, in 1960, many were angry that someone who painted in a modernist style would take on the neo-Baroque ceiling of Charles Garnier. Once he finished, Chagall’s work was without a doubt a masterpiece. He used bright colors, composers of the past and present, people dancing, actors, and more musical imagery throughout his piece.[15] His airy brushstrokes seem to make the image float in the sky, like a colorful heaven full of wonderful sounds above the visitors to the opera. Couples in love, animals, satyrs, angels, and fauns all cover the ceiling in a display of movement and life. The ceiling brings to mind childhood sketches, and evokes one's deepest emotions and findings of the subconscious.[16] He also painted traditional French houses along the river, the Opera Garnier, the Place de la Concorde, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel To. Chagall pays homage to the greats of the art world, including scenes of The Magic Flute (Mozart), Giselle (Adam), Tristan and Isolde (Wagner), Romeo and Juliette (Berlioz), Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky), Daphnis and Chloe (Ravel), The Firebird (Stravinsky), and Swan Lake (Tchaikovsky). Wagner was a notorious anti-Semite. He included scenes from Fidelio, Orfeo, and Carmen. Chagall explained, “I wanted to
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represent, as in a mirror, a bunch of dreams, the creations of the actors and musicians; to keep in mind the colorful clothes of the audience stirring on the lower level. To sing like a bird, free of any theory and method. To

render homage to the great composers of operas and ballets.” He refused to be paid for his work, seeing it as his offering to the city.[17]

Half Past Three (The Poet):
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This is one of Chagall's larger works at around six feet tall. He completed this painting in Paris, soon after he moved there from St. Petersburg. The portrait originally depicted Mazin, a poet from Russia who drank coffee in the morning at his studio. Chagall was inspired by the Yiddish expression fardreiter kop, literally meaning turned head, but symbolizing extreme confusion. The colors look extracted, almost like a prism with the diagonal strokes of color. The viewer feels as if they are peering through a kaleidoscope with the Cubist styles in bright, refracted coloration. The luminous reds, whites, greens, and blues evoke traditional Russian folk art, unlike the dark colors used by Picasso and Braque. [18]

Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers: external image self-portrait-with-seven-digits-autoportrait-1913.jpg

This piece truly embodies Chagall's unique style of blending old cultural conventions into modern interpretations. Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers (1912-1913) is done in a Cubist style, but he infuses his famous soft, dreamy colors in every shape. In the background, he shows windows into two locations very significant in his life: Paris and Vitebsk. He literally shows how both places have been very important in shaping the course of his work and life.[19] The depiction of Paris looks much more angular, as if representing the Cubist craze in the galleries. The view of Vitebsk feels dreamlike, airy, and almost like an image out of a childhood fairy tale. Although he is dressed in the clothing of a modern Parisian man, he is painting a domestic scene with a large animal in the foreground, and a building with a cross on its roof in the background. The palette he holds in his right hand is covered in beautiful, blending colors that look as if they were used on the actual painting, not just the painting inside of the painting. Right next to the Russian cityscape reads the Hebrew letters Rosiye and Paris. The letters would have been read aloud in Yiddish. Jewish populations in Eastern Europe have a long tradition of often speaking three or more languages, including Hebrew, Yiddish, and the native tongue of the region. Chagall added an "e" to the end of the word for Russia, showing his rich linguistic heritage. Chagall frequently used this combination of letters and art to make stunning visual effects, similar to the impact of calligraphy from Islamic or Chinese texts. [20] Although upon first glance this painting may look like a regular Cubist portrait, further analysis shows incredibly detailed cultural ties. Chagall continues making connections to his work by showing himself with seven fingers. This detail's inspiration comes form a Yiddish expression, meaning that one has only tried their absolute best if they have attempted with "seven fingers." As this piece is on a large scale (4.13 feet by 3.52 feet), his ambitions in establishing himself as a prominent artist come through in his piece, the effort behind it done with "seven fingers!" [21]


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Chagall in Today's World:

Chagall's works continue to be some of the favorites of art amateurs and experts alike. On February 28, 2012, pieces by Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Henri Matisse, and
Discovered Chagall
Discovered Chagall

more were discovered in Cornelius Gurlitt's home in Schwabing, Munich. His father was an art collector and dealer, greatly intertwined with the Nazis, who claimed some art to be "degenerate" and took masterpieces from museums, homes, and families. These works were concealed here for decades after being confiscated by the Nazis during World War II. Paintings dating back to the 16th centuries were found in this home, and more modern pieces were discovered. All of the works amount to an estimated value of one billion euros. [22] Around 1,300 pieces were found, and efforts are being made to return the pieces to their rightful Jewish owners. At the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, representative Ruediger Mahlo said "We demand that the paintings be handed back to their original owners."[23] (Video entitled: Heirs Demand List of Stolen Nazi Art 04:10)

Chagall is still an inspiring artist, his timeless art containing meaning for artists and audiences around the world. His pieces serve as a time capsule of when many Jews struggled with their identity, and found themselves torn between the norms of the past and those of the future. He demonstrates how one does not need to decide between the two schools of thought, and can instead be a trailblazer of one's own unique blend. His Hasidic cultural elements of dance and movement, and the motifs of his hometown, greatly impacted the imagery of his works, yet he adapts to the new modernist styles of Parisian art in his whimsical compositions. He died in France on March 28, 1985, but his legacy will never be forgotten. [24]
  1. ^ Rosenberg, Karen. "His First Brush With the City of Light." The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 June 2011. Web. 28 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Marc Chagall." Guggenheim. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 May 2017. <>.
  3. ^ "Marc Chagall: French-Russian Draftsman, Painter, and Printmaker." The Art Story: Modern Art Insight. The Art Story Foundation, n.d. Web. 22 May 2017.
  4. ^ "Marc Chagall." Guggenheim. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, n.d. Web. 10 May 2017. <>.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Wecker, Menachem. "Marc Chagall: The French Painter Who Inspired the Title 'Fiddler on the Roof'."The Washington Post. WP Company, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 May 2017. <>
  7. ^ "Marc Chagall Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works." The Art Story. The Art Story Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 May 2017.
  8. ^ Atkinson, Jack A. "ARTSnFOOD." Closely Looking at "Paris Par La Fenêtre" (Paris through the Window) by Marc Chagall + Orange Shake. N.p., 01 Jan. 2017. Web. 28 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Chagall and His Murals." Metropolitan Opera. N.p., 11 July 2016. Web. 31 May 2017. <>.
  10. ^ "Marc Chagall and the Opera, a Love That Never Died: A Look into What Inspired Marc Chagall's Lithographs." Masterworks Fine Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017. <>.
  11. ^ "REVIEW: MARC CHAGALL — THE TRIUMPH OF MUSIC." Culturekiosque Klassiknet: Features. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 May 2017. <>.
  12. ^ "Marc Chagall Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works." The Art Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017. <>.
  13. ^ Sutton, Tina. "The Colorful Marc Chagall." The Making of Markova. N.p., 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 31 May 2017. <>.
  14. ^ Felsenthal, Julia. "Marc Chagall's Wild Designs for Mozart's The Magic Flute Are at the Fenimore Art Museum." Vogue. Vogue, 6 July 2015. Web. 01 June 2017. <>.
  15. ^ Keller, Hadley. "Chagall Opéra Garnier Ceiling Celebrates 50 Years." Architectural Digest. N.p., 16 Sept. 2015. Web. 25 May 2017. <>.
  16. ^ "Chagall’s Ceiling Unveiled." A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 25 May 2017. <>.
  17. ^ "Marc Chagall and the Opera, a Love That Never Died: A Look into What Inspired Marc Chagall's Lithographs." Masterworks Fine Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 June 2017. <>.
  18. ^ "Half-Past Three (The Poet)." Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 25 May 2017. <>.
  19. ^ "The Art of Marc Chagall." CBS News. CBS Interactive, 07 May 2017. Web. 24 May 2017.
  20. ^ Jaworski, Adam. 2014. “Metrolingual Art: Multilingualism and Heteroglossia.” International Journal of Bilingualism 18(2): 134-158.
  21. ^ "Collection Marc Chagall: L'Autoportrait Aux Sept Doigts, 1912." Stedelijk Museum. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, n.d. Web. 25 May 2017. <>.
  22. ^ "Lost Nazi Art: Unknown Chagall among Paintings in Munich Flat." The Telegraph. The Telegraph Media Group Limited, n.d. Web. 6 June 2017. <>.
  23. ^ Jones, Bryony. "Unknown Matisse, Chagall and Dix Artworks Found in Nazi-looted Haul." CNN. N.p., 26 Nov. 2013. Web. <>.
  24. ^ "Marc Chagall Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works." The Art Story. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2017. <>.