Marc Chagall was born in a small town in Russia to a poor Hassidic family. The eldest of nine children, as a young boy he began to display his artistic talent and went St. Petersburg in 1907 to study art. Influenced by contemporary Russian painting, Chagall's distinctive, child-like style, often centering on images from his childhood, began to emerge.
From 1910 to 1914, Chagall lived in Paris and was influenced by cubism, Surrealism and Fauvism. It was during this period that Chagall painted some of his most famous paintings and developed the features that became trademarks of his art.
Strong, bright colors portray his dreamlike world with simplicity mixed with fantasy, religion and nostalgia. Animals, workmen, lovers and musicians populate his figures. The fiddler on the roof, a recurrent figure, is said to have been his uncle in real life. Chagall's style did not conform to of any one school of art and he exhibited regularly in Paris at the Salon des Independants.
In 1914 Chagall returned to Russia, endorsed the revolution and became involved as an Art Commissioner and Director of the Free Academy of Art, but the Bolsheviks criticized his art as too modern.
In 1922 Chagall left Russia to settle in France, but during the war years he lived in the United States. Chagall expressed his horror over the Nazi rise to power and depicted Jewish martyrs and refugees in his paintings.
The Bible inspired many themes in Chagall's paintings and his fascination culminated in a tour de force series of over 100 etchings of Biblical illustrations.
A versatile artist, Chagall painted with oil, watercolor, and gouache. He also created ceramics, mosaics and stained glass. He painted the ceiling of the Paris Opera House, murals at the New York Metropolitan Opera, a stained glass window at the United Nations and decorations at the Vatican. In Israel he created twelve stained glass windows at the Hadassah Hospital and tapestries for the Knesset.
Chagall received international recognition for his work and continues to be admired worldwide as one of the twentieth century's most important painters. He was one of few artists to exhibit paintings at the Louvre while he was still alive.