Marc Chagall (1887-1985), born Russia on July 7, 1887, lived in Paris for most of his life.
His birth name was Moische Segal. He grew up the eldest of nine children in a poor Hasidic Jewish family in a town where half the population was Jewish. He writes about his childhood in his autobiography called “My Life”, a book he wrote when he was 34 years old. As an adult, he was not a practicing Jew.
He first lived in Paris from 1910 to 1914 to study art. He came back in 1923, and with Modigliani and other non-French artists, formed the “Ecole de Paris” or “School of Paris”. It was a group of artists who painted in a somewhat realistic style they called “poetic expressionism”.
Chagall was interested in Fauvism, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism and Orphism. Folklore, circus, and flight were his favourite themes. Chagall almost always, if not always, used vibrant colours in his work. It is this use of colour and the joyfulness portrayed in his work that is most characteristic of his art.
In 1910, Chagall moved into a building call “La Ruche” (the beehive) because of the honeycomb-like network of artist studios. (It still stands today at Passage Dantzig, in the 15th arrondissement).
Chagall became a French citizen in 1937.
By the 1930’s, Chagall had a world-wide reputation. He was known as illustrator of books, ceramicist, theatre set designer, and he made stained glass. In 1963, he was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Paris Opera.
He died at St. Paul-de-Vence, near Nice in 1985, at the ripe old age of 97.
To see Chagall’s ceiling in the Paris Opera, you can take a self-guided or guided tour of the building.