Active in the twentieth century, Marc Zakharovich Chagall (1887 – 1985) was a Russian-French artist who worked in a variety of media but is most renowned for his paintings. During his time, he was the foremost Jewish artist in the world and has since been referred to as “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century”. Chagall is most known for his brilliant use of color to attract the viewer’s attention. His artworks are usually lively and imaginative and often combine Cubism and Fauvism with his folkish style. Know more about the art of Marc Chagall by studying his 10 most famous paintings.
#10 Bella with White Collar
Marc Chagall met Bella Rosenfeld, the daughter of a wealthy Russian jeweler, in 1909. At the time Marc was a penniless apprentice. They fell in love immediately and married in the summer of 1915. Bella acted as Chagall’s muse and appeared in many of his works. This portrait is Chagall’s most famous representation of her. In it she stands over a lush pastoral landscape and at her feet are two tiny figures which presumably represent Chagall and the couple’s daughter, Ida.
#9 Homage to Apollinaire
|Location:||Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands|
In 1910, Chagall relocated to Paris and his first stay of four years in the French capital is considered by art historians as the best phase of his artistic career. Created during this time, Homage to Apollinaire is perhaps the most enigmatic of his works. The composition was motivated by Chagall’s admiration for the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, whose poetry often concerned with the clash between the modern and the traditional. It shows a man and a woman to be joined at the hip surrounded by geometric shapes, names of several poets and numbers.
#8 The Fiddler
|Location:||Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands|
This painting is a representation of a fiddler in Chagall’s village, Vitebsk. Chagall uses the fiddler to create an image of the internal battle of an average individual, which is accentuated through his choice of colors and other elements. Created at a time when nostalgia dominated his thoughts, the painting highlights his cultural and religious legacy through the image of a violinist dancing in a rustic village. Chagall’s image of the fiddler served as an inspiration for the famous 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof, which held the record for the longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years.
#7 The Promenade
|Location:||State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia|
This painting was created at the time Chagall was ecstatic due to his marriage to his sweetheart Bella Rosenfeld a couple of years ago and the sense of freedom and optimism he experienced as a Jew due to the October Revolution. It shows Chagall holding hands with Bella who is fluttering like a flag in the wind. Chagall uses elements of Cubism and Futurism in the painting. The exhilarating image he has created in the artwork makes it one of his most romantic paintings.
#6 Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers
|Location:||Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands|
Among the earliest self-portraits of Chagall and one of his first works in Cubism, this painting shows the artist working on a canvas. He has seven fingers perhaps suggesting the difficulty of what he wants to accomplish with the normal count of fingers. Created during his first stay in the capital of France, it shows Paris with its iconic Eiffel Tower through the window while Vitebsk, his homeland in Russia, is shown among the clouds in a surrealist manner within his studio. Through these two images Chagall dramatically expresses his conflict between the picturesque Vitebsk and modern Paris.
#5 Circus Horse
Mark Chagall loved the circus and said that its artists helped him ‘move toward new horizons’. It became one of his favorite subjects during his early years in Paris and remained so throughout his career. This painting, in which Chagall has used vibrant colors and dazzling tones to capture the festive mood of the circus, is his most famous painting on the subject. Circus Horse was created in the late stage of his career, when Chagall was in his seventies. It is considered one of his finest and most vigorous late works.
#4 Paris Through the Window
|Location:||Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, U.S.|
While in Paris during the best phase of his career, Chagall often remembered his home and life in Vitebsk; and majority of his artworks based on his homeland are from this period. This famous masterpiece shows a two faced man looking through his window at what is a visually appealing snapshot of Paris. Through a juxtaposition of imaginary and the real, Chagall shows his present experience of life in Paris as well as patterns from his life in Russia. The duality he is experiencing is perhaps the reason behind the figure looking both ways. The painting, especially the Eiffel Tower, is inspired by the early Cubist art of fellow artist and Chagall’s friend Robert Delaunay.
#3 La Mariée
|English Title:||The Bride|
The striking quality of Chagall’s works was his ability to attract the viewer’s attention and capture his imagination through colors. Such was his mastery that he portrayed striking images even while using just two or three colors; and this is evident in this renowned artwork. The bride is dressed in a lively red dress as compared to the soft blue and grey background which gives the impression that the woman is about to jump of the canvas and it is the viewer to whom she is being presented, and it is he who is the groom.
#2 White Crucifixion
|Location:||Art Institute of Chicago, U.S.|
This painting is perhaps the most critically acclaimed masterpiece of Chagall. It is also among the most eloquent depictions against hatred. It puts on one canvas the suffering of Jesus and the Jewish people. The crucifixion of Jesus is depicted at the center of the painting while violent acts against Jews, such as burning of a synagogue, surround the central scene. Jesus is shown wearing a prayer shawl implying that he is Jewish and thus connecting his suffering to that of the Jews. White Crucifixion, with its dark intensity, is remarkably different from most of Chagall’s works, which are lively and imaginative. It is the favorite painting of Pope Francis, the 266th and current Pope of the Roman Catholic Church.
#1 I and the Village
|Location:||Museum of Modern Art, New York City, U.S.|
Created during the best phase of his career, this is the most famous painting by Marc Chagall. It is dominated by the image of a green-faced man and a goat staring at each other; and a glowing tree held in a hand. This is complemented by several scenes like that of a goat being milked and a collection of houses, some upside down. The painting consists of dreamlike images of Russian landscape and symbols from folk stories. As its title suggests, I and the Village is influenced by Chagall’s memories of his homeland and his relationship to it. The use of clearly defined elements with specific meaning like the Tree of Life, and the daringly whimsical style of the painting were considered ground breaking at the time.