Marc Chagal

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CHAGALL Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was born to a Jewish family on the border of Russia and Poland. He was interested in art at a very young age and was able to travel to St. Petersburg even though it was illegal for a Jew at the time. After St. Petersburg, Chagall was involved and influenced by several different artistic movements. While in Paris he became involved with the Cubists as well as the Futurists. Chagall also worked closely with Malevich in Russia. By combining his experience and knowledge of several artistic movements, Chagall is able to create his own unique style that draws on the past while at the same time transcending the Russian Avant-garde.

Chagall's later work was highly influenced by previous artistic movements. In order to understand the unique, preeminent style that Chagall developed, it is necessary to look at the evolution of the artistic movements beginning with Primitivism.

The fundamental principle of Primitivism is that it draws on art of the past. The painting, The Gypsy Women, by the Russian primitivist Mikhail Larionov illustrates how Primitivism is influenced by the past. The tree branch on the upper left side of the painting derives from Japanese wood block prints. Also, the face of the Gypsy Women resembles an African mask, similar to the faces of Picasso's figures in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. The objects in Gypsy Women are realistic enough to know what they are, (like the pig and the dog in the background) yet, they do not have any real descriptive detail. All the objects are also represented on the same plane. Natalya Goncharova, another Russian primitivist, does not rely on realistic detail in her paintings either. Goncharova's painting, Gathering Grapes, is more of an abstract representation of human figures that concentrates on the use of color, as...