Marc Chagall: Life and Work


Franz Meyer.


Franz Meyer, Marc Chagall: Life and Work (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1963). First U.S. edition, quarto, with more than 1,250 illustrations including 53 tipped-in full-page colour Plates, 30 x 22 x 6.6 cm, 775 pages, weight 3.32 kg, hard cover, colour dust jacket with image of At Cock’s Crow 1944 on front and full-page b/w photograph of Chagall on back cover. Acknowledgments; Contents; Introduction; Russia 1906-1910; Paris 1910-1914; Russia 1914-1922; France 1923-1941; America; Back in France; Notes; Chronology; Classified Catalogue; Bibliography; Exhibitions; List of Illustrations; Photographic Sources, Index.

Condition: Fine/Fine, except for light toning to front linen cover under dust jacket and page edges.

The artist Marc Zakharovich Chagall (1887-1985) was born in Vitebsk, Belarus, a region which profoundly influenced his work, though he spent two-thirds of his long life in France, and some years in Soviet Russia and post-World War II in America. Chagall studied from 1907-1910 in St Petersburg and with Léon Bakst, and then moved to Paris where he encountered Cubism and Fauvism and in 1912 exhibited in two Salons and subsequently, in 1914, at Berlin’s Der Sturm gallery. He visited Russia in 1914, when the outbreak of war prevented his return to Paris. Settling in Vitebsk, he was appointed Commissar of Art in 1918, became a member of the artistic avant-garde and founded the Vitebsk Popular Art School, resigning in 1920 after conflicts with the Suprematists. Chagall then moved to Moscow, where his first stage designs were executed, and in 1922-1923 to Paris, where he met the celebrated art dealer Ambroise Vollard.

An early modernist, Chagall’s reputation grew through syntheses of aspects of Cubism, Fauvism and Symbolism, and as a pre-eminent Jewish artist incorporating ideas of east European Jewish folk culture who regarded his work as the dream not of one people but for all humanity. Chagall’s artistic production encompassed painting, prints, stained glass, stage sets, book illustrations, tapestries and ceramics. The first Retrospective of Chagall’s work was held in Paris in 1924 followed in 1933 by a major Retrospective in Basel; an exhibition of a decade’s work (1967-1977) at the Louvre in Paris in 1977-1978; and another major Retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1985. Marc Chagall produced stained glass windows for Israel’s Jerusalem Windows (1962); windows for the UN, New York (installed 1964); murals for New York’s Metropolitan Opera; and Reims and Metz Cathedrals, the latter installed in 1968.

Chagall spent WWII in the United States, where the Museum of Modern Art, New York, gave him a Retrospective in 1946. He returned to France in 1948, settling there permanently and exhibiting in Paris, Amsterdam and London. In 1951 he visited Israel and the same year executed his first sculptures. Travels in Greece and Italy followed in 1952 and Chagall continued to travel widely in the 1960s, often for major commissions.

Chagall’s magnificent circular painting for the ceiling of Paris’s neo-Baroque Opéra Garnier, one of his many large-scale paintings, was installed in 1964. This superb painting, initially controversial as a modernist work but now regarded as a masterpiece, measures nearly 2,600 square feet and consumed 440 pounds of paint in its execution. Picasso remarked that, after Matisse’s death, Chagall was the only remaining painter who understood colour. Marc Chagall died at St Paul de Vence, France in 1985.

This book’s author, Franz Meyer (1919-2007) was Chagall’s son-in-law. Born in Zurich, Meyer’s childhood was spent in his parents’ home filled with modernist paintings. His lawyer father was the Zurich Art Society President. The Collection of Franz Meyer’s grandfather included works by van Gogh, Cézanne and Gauguin. Franz Meyer studied law and later art history at the University of Bern; wrote on the stained glass of Chartres Cathedral; and completed his studies in Zurich, Rome and Paris where he met and married Chagall’s daughter Ida in 1952. Franz and Ida had three children. In 1955 Meyer was appointed Director of the Kunsthalle Bern, the following year presenting the first comprehensive Retrospective of Giacometti. Subsequently Meyer became President of Giacometti Foundation in Zurich and Director of the Public Art Collection Basel. Retiring in 1980, Meyer lived with his art Collection and his second wife, the artist Pia Rüdlinger-Federspiel, in the neo-Gothic mansion which was formerly his parents’ home.