‘All colours are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.’
Though he was born in a Jewish family in great Russian Empire, Marc Chagall experienced modernism’s Golden age in Paris. He moved to Paris in 1910. to develop his artistic style. When Chagall arrived in Paris, Cubism was the dominant art form and overall art scene was still greatly dominated by materialistic outlook of the 19th century. When he first arrived in Paris, Cubism was at its peak, but Chagall’s ideas were quite the opposite. Even his thoughts about art were the revers of what Cubists had in mind, Chagall considered art “emerging from the internal being outward, from the seen object to the psychic outpouring.”
His first days in Paris were far from being easy; he wandered lonely through Parisian boulevards, barely speaking French, thinking about what he had left behind. While he painted, Chagall daydreamed about the richness of Russian folklore, his Hasidic experiences, his family and Bella with whom he fell in love the moment he first saw her. However, Chagall’s dream of a big city; city of light, freedom and art, came true.
Chagall really enjoyed being in Paris, strolling around and just breathing Parisian air. He often visited Montmartre and Latin Quarter. Baal-Teshuva described Chagall’s feelings for Paris.
”Chagall was exhilarated, intoxicated, as he strolled through the streets and along the banks of the Seine. Everything about the French capital excited him: the shops, the smell of fresh bread in the morning, the markets with their fresh fruit and vegetables, the wide boulevards, the cafés and restaurants, and above all the Eiffel Tower.
Another completely new world that opened up for him was the kaleidoscope of colours and forms in the works of French artists. Chagall enthusiastically reviewed their many different tendencies, having to rethink his position as an artist and decide what creative avenue he wanted to pursue.”
Artists Chagall admired at that time were Rembrandt, van Gogh, Renoir, Pissaro, Matisse, Gauguin, Courbet, Monet, Manet and Delacroix. Still, Chagall was constantly thinking about his home in Vitebsk as Paris at that time was a home to many other artists, dancers, poets and writers from Russian Empire. ‘My homeland exists only in my soul.’ he once said, as he painted the scenes he remembered from his childhood, incorporating both Jewish themes and Parisian landscapes. Throughout all of is life, the memories of his childhood and Russian folklore mingled with Jewish tradition haunted him and he painted the scenes he remembered in an unrealistic, dreamy, childlike and idealistic way.
Even though he experimented with different perspectives, his grand passion was for colour. He loved colours; using them, mixing them, observing their quality and behavior. “Colour is all. When colour is right, form is right. Colour is everything, colour is vibration like music; everything is vibration.” Very passionate about colours, Chagall painted in dreamy blues, vivid reds, mystic greens and cheerful yellows. His paintings that are mainly blue-coloured are the most appealing to me out of all; they remind me of a dream, all of Chagall’s paintings do. The characters on his paintings, the settings, the poses, wild mix of colours; mystic and tempting with childlike cheerfulness, dreamy atmosphere emerges from his paintings.
“In our life there is a single colour, as on an artist palette which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the colour of love.”
“I have always painted pictures where human love floods my colours.”
Marc Chagall remains the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century having contributed to the development of Modernism. In the 1950s Pablo Picasso made a remark which shows how important Chagall was and what sensation and joy he found in colours ‘When Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.’