Marc Zakharovich Chagall (July 6, 1887 – March 28, 1985) was a Russian-French artist. An early modernist, he was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in virtually every artistic medium: painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints. Chagall's work is emotionally charged, full of rich imagery, and heavily thematic. Blending Russian-Jewish iconography with Christian symbolism, Chagall's paintings are characterized by an otherworldly, dream-like setting--rendered in an almost child-like style. Although superficially whimsical, the subject of his work is profound; he was heavily influenced by the turmoil surrounding World War II. In fact, in 1941 Chagall’s name was added by the director of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City to a list of artists and intellectuals deemed most at risk from the Nazis’ anti-Jewish campaign.
Chagall’s fascination with lithography came later in his life. He was 63 years old when he began to study with printmaker Charles Sorlier in 1950. The collaboration between Sorlier and Chagall resulted in astoundingly beautiful pieces of art. Chagall was a perfectionist and was involved in every step of the printmaking process--from proofing and retouching to ensuring the destruction of imperfect prints. Their artistic pairing resulted in some of the most beloved works in Chagall's entire artistic oeuvre.
Much of his later principal work exists in the form of large-scale commissions around the world. Among the highlights from this period are the U.N. building in New York City (completed 1964), the ceiling of the Paris Opéra (completed 1964); and murals for the New York Metropolitan Opera (completed 1964), for whom he also designed the sets and costumes for a 1967 production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
In 1977 Chagall received the Grand Medal of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest accolade. That year, he also became one of only a handful of artists in history to receive a retrospective exhibition at the Louvre.
He died in 1985, at the age of 97, leaving behind an expansive collection of work along with an inspirational legacy as an iconic Jewish artist and pioneer of modernism.