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Marc Chagall was born on 24 June 1887 in Vitebsk, in Belarus, as the eldest of nine children into a jewish family. In his life Chagall worked in various techniques. Besides painting, he worked on etchings and lithographs with great devotion and thus also on book illustrations. He received his first painting lessons in Jehuda Pen’s studio. At the age of 19 Chagall moved to St. Petersburg to receive further training. A stay in Paris inspired his artistic work. From Russia, he moved to Berlin in 1922, where he executed his very first lithographs in black and white. Following Ambroise Vollards call to etch the illustrations of Nicolai Gogol’s “Dead Souls”, he moved to Paris in 1923. This was followed by illustrations for Jean de la Fontaine’s “Fables” and, from 1930 on, the extremely well-known etchings for the Bible.
The Second World War forces Chagall to exile in America. There he turned again to lithography in 1946. He created 13 gouaches as models for the lithographs of “Four Tales from the Arabian Nights”. Chagall himself learned the technique of color lithography in 1950, at the age of 63, in the studio of the Mourlot brothers. This technique is ideal for Chagall, since the color effect is decisive for the artistic expression of his works. In Mourlot’s studio, the printmaker Charles Sorlier assisted and helped him translate his artistic vision into lithography.
The motifs and themes Chagall deals with in his paintings are also found in his prints. His homeland, the Shtetl Witebsk with its wooden houses, lovers, circus motifs, mythological and biblical figures, mythical creatures and motifs from the bible characterize Chagall’s art. He plays poetically with these figures and with colours in his works of art – there is a reason why he is called “painter poet”.
Marc Chagall died on 28 March 1985, at the age of 97, in Saint Paul de Vence, France.
Colorlithograph from “Bible I”, 1956. Edition of 6500 impressions. Printed by Mourlot, Paris and published by Revue Verve/Tériade, Paris.