Our final creative in the Artist Series is the Russian-French painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985). Much of his work is tied to his identity as an Eastern European Jewish man and his paintings depict a lot of the folk culture that goes with that. You may recognize The Fiddler which inspired the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.” Chagall created works in almost every medium but it was his vibrant, expressionistic paintings that first drew me to him. Pablo Picasso once said of him, “When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.”
Chagall was a simple man, a trait I tried to embody in this basic ensemble, emphasizing texture. He was first exposed to art when he saw a classmate drawing in school. He immediately knew he wanted to be an artist. He moved to Saint Petersburg to further study and there he met Bella Rosenfeld, the love of his life. The love story between Bella and Marc is another thing that drew me to the artist. He loved her so passionately that even after she died he continued to paint her in his works for the rest of his life. He married again but his heart was always truly tied to her. In his memoir In My Life Chagall describes first seeing her, “Her silence is mine, her eyes mine. It is as if she knows everything about my childhood, my present, my future, as if she can see right through me.”
Chagall had spent some time studying in Paris before marrying Bella, and the couple moved there in 1923. He enjoyed success until Hitler rose to power, targeting Jewish people all over Europe. It wasn’t long before he and Bella had to evacuate France and immigrate to the U.S. Chagall became an unwilling celebrity in New York, his artwork having already received critical acclaim. Despite this, he felt lost and missed his home country. The frenetic strokes and surrealist subject matter of his paintings reflects these turbulent times. In many of his paintings with Bella, the couple is flying above the landscape in their own space and time. I tried to recreate that almost playful feature above against a colorful Ellsworth Kelly, paying homage to Chagall’s love of pigment.
I love Chagall for the same reason I love Russian authors, he is a romantic, dramatic, philosophical storyteller. He paints everyday life, the human experience. Love, loss, fear, joy, the motions that we all go through. Don’t forget to check out the others in the Artist Series: Frida Kahlo, Francisco Goya, Cindy Sherman, and Hiro.
Jeans: Primark, Boots: Coach, Jacket: Thrifted, Shirt: H&M
Photos by Stephanie Krist.