Marc Chagall: three souls, three loves

“Only love interests me and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love”.

Dreamlike and fantastic atmospheres were conceived by a Jewish, Russian and Western soul: we are obviously talking about Marc Chagall and his art, which never belonged to any artistic movement, and was never submitted to any manifesto. The artist, who was faithful only to his visionary and lyrical unconscious, was inspired only by what he loved more than anything else: his hometown, his wife Bella and music.

Once upon a time there was a village

Marc Chagall was born in 1887 into a Jewish family from Vitebsk, a village in current Belarus. His youthful paintings, in fact, immortalized the culminating moments of the life of Vitebsk’s inhabitants, as well as the rituals of the Russian culture and Jewish tradition: canvases such as Pregnant Woman, I and the Village, The Jew in Pink are witnesses of this.

Nevertheless, as you can see in Over Vitebsk, the representation of reality is filtered by the fairy-tale spirit and the vivid imagination that, together with the vibrant and bright colors taken from the Russian icons, will be the stylistic signature of his unmistakable art. Chagall always remained attached to his beloved hometown, even when his life led him elsewhere, to France – his country of adoption – Germany and America.

Marc Chagall, I and the Village, 1911, MoMA, New York.

Life is Beautiful

However, his hometown was crucial not only for his career, but also for his life: precisely in Vitebsk, in 1909, Marc met the love of his life, Bella Rosenfeld, who became his wife and gave him a daughter, Ida. Some of the artist’s most famous paintings, such as Blue Lovers, The Stroll and Birthday, depict the woman together with her husband.

In the last two paintings mentioned, the couple – respectively his wife and then the artist – soar in the air elevated by the love for the other, whom they slightly touch with their fingers and lips. Chagall himself admitted that the deep feeling for his wife strongly influenced his painting, and so it was that tragic afternoon of 1944, when his inspiration passed away for a long time, together with Bella.

Marc Chagall, Promenade, 1916 – 1917, The State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg.

Music as his muse

In addition to his wife, Chagall venerated another muse, that is Music. His passion for this latter began during his childhood, especially for Mozart and Bach, when his beloved Vitebsk echoed with traditional Jewish rhythms and Russian melodies. Chagall did not pour this passion only into painting, creating masterpieces such as the Fiddler, the Green Violinist and The Triumph of Music, but also in other forms of artistic expression: he designed stage costumes, modeled sculptures and created stage designs for the Moscow State Yiddish Theater.

He painted the admirable frescoes for the dome of the Palais Garnier in Paris, a synesthetic triumph of color and music. Therefore, the artistic production of Chagall was all inspired by his passions; in fact, the artist not surprisingly said, “Only love interests me and I am only in contact with things that revolve around love”.

The dome of the Palais Garnier in Paris frescoed by Marc Chagall.


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