Marc Chagall was an important painter of the 20th century, whose poetic, expressive work frequently featured magical or dream-like subject matter. Born Moishe Shagal on July 7, 1887 in Vitebsk, Russia (present-day Belarus) to a Hasidic Jewish family, the artist was raised immersed in Jewish culture and iconography. Studying under the artist Yehuda Pen as a youth, the Judaic traditions and folklore of his hometown permeated Chagall’s paintings. After studying in St. Petersburg, the artist moved to Paris in 1910, where he quickly befriended members of the French avant-garde, including Robert Delaunay and Fernand Léger. Visiting Russia in 1914, the artist was prevented from returning to Paris due to the outbreak of World War I until 1926. In addition to his paintings, Chagall was also noted for his vibrant works in stained glass and lithography. Forced to flee Paris during World War II, Chagall lived in the United States and traveled through to Israel before returning to France in 1948. The artist died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France on March 28, 1985.
With a career spanning over seven decades, Chagall was at times influenced by Cubism and Fauvism but departed from both to forge a unique, personal aesthetic. Marc Chagall's work anticipated the dream-like imagery of Surrealism. Over the course of his career Chagall developed the poetic, amorphous, and deeply personal visual language evident in the painting I and the Village (1911). “When I am finishing a picture, I hold some God-made object up to it—a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand as a final test,” he said. “If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there's a clash between the two, it's bad art." His work became influential throughout Europe, particularly to Surrealist artists who were inspired by his symbolic imagery.
Throughout his life, Chagall received many honors. In 1977, the city of Jerusalem bestowed upon him the Yakir Yerushalayim (Worthy Citizen of Jerusalem) award and the government of France awarded him its highest honor, the Grand-Croix de la Legion d’honneur. In 1974 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium. The Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, Texas has one of the largest collections of Chagall works on paper, hosting continuously rotating Chagall exhibitions.
Today, his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; the Tate Gallery, London; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; and the Albertina, Vienna, among others. Musee des Beaux Arts (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) in Montreal, Canada opened a Chagall exhibit in 2017 of over 400 works by Chagall. The exhibition traveled to Los Angeles in 2017.