Introduction

Marc Chagall (Russian / French, 1887 – 1985) is among the most popular Modern artists, as well as the most difficult to define stylistically. His personal style, which incorporated aspects of Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, Surrealism, and Primitivism, was highly individual, and makes Chagall a titan in the art market. His works are prized by the greatest museums in the world. Collections include the Guggenheim and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and even the Tate in London.

Biography

Born in 1887 in the Belorussian town of Vitebsk (then part of the Russian Empire), Chagall was raised in a Jewish home. Judaism would play a major role in his work throughout his life, though he himself believed that his work went beyond any single faith. He studied art in St. Petersburg before moving to Paris to encounter early 20th century Modernism in its infancy. This was the period when monumental names such as Henri Matisse (French, 1869 – 1945), Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881 – 1973) and Georges Braque (French, 1882 – 1963) were just beginning to make waves in the French capital. Here, Chagall found much inspiration, and he quickly became a major figure in the French art scene.

Portrait of Marc Chagall
Pierre Choumoff, "Marc Chagall". Early 20th century. Wikimedia Commons.

He returned to Vitebsk after the Bolshevik Revolution and founded an important art school in the town. He soon left the USSR when the Soviet government favored other styles of art over Chagall’s unusual compositions. Returning to Paris, Chagall made a name for himself before the Second World War. He escaped Germany’s advance and stayed in America until 1948. He returned to France the same year, and continued to make art until his death in 1985. When he passed away, he was considered among the last Modernists.

Chagall’s Style

Marc Chagall’s eclectic and ever-changing style was most influenced by the Parisian modernist movements of the early 20th century. The compositions of his paintings were often complicated, and not bound by the laws of physics and reason.

Marc Chagall poster for Die Zauberflote
Marc Chagall, Poster for Mozart's "Die Zauberflote" at the Metropolitan Opera. 1966.

 In a Chagall painting, people rise out of bouquets of flowers, villages stand on the heads of goats, and cows hold umbrellas. Human – animal hybrids populate his scenes, and place the viewer into a dream and vision unlike anything they have ever seen. Chagall’s art, however, is most well-known for his masterful use of color, which grew ever more central to his work as time went on. Chagall used pure colors expressively, allowing his art to display his most sincere thoughts and beliefs. Colors naturally communicate emotion and feeling. Chagall used this to his advantage. In major commissions, like the ceiling of the Paris Opera (1964), Chagall used bright colors and his strange figures to reference famous operas in an engaging and absorbing manner. Viewers of a Chagall painting are often transfixed by the scene, and the memory of the painting stays with them for a long time afterward.

Chagall’s Prints

While Marc Chagall is most famous for his paintings, he worked in many media, including stained glass and lithography. Chagall’s lithographs masterfully express the artist’s vision in a compact and accessible form with wide distribution. Since Chagall’s paintings regularly sell for multiple millions of dollars, a Chagall lithograph is more affordable for most collectors. Chagall was careful, however, to make limited copies of his prints, so that they too became sought after works of art. 

Nest Egg Auctions has experience selling the prints and multiples of Marc Chagall. Nest Egg has sold two lithographic posters that Chagall produced for New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1966. One poster was produced for Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, and the other for Bizet’s Carmen. Both posters utilize bright colors and surreal figures that move in the image and create complicated compositions that hold the viewer spellbound. Mysterious and mesmerizing, these posters sold very well.

Marc Chagall poster for Bizet's Carmen
Marc Chagall, Poster for Bizet's "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera. 1966.

Selling Chagall

Recently, the market for Chagall’s prints has grown considerably. His prints, as of writing time, are commonly selling into the thousands of dollars. This is something usually unheard-of for an artist’s lithographs. Prints that are hand signed and numbered by Chagall especially carry a significant premium. Now is the time to sell a lithograph by Marc Chagall, and Nest Egg Auctions would love to help you do just that. If you have a print by Marc Chagall, please reach out to us and show us! We would be happy to tell you more about what you have.

Further Reading:

Rainer Metzger. Chagall. Cologne: Taschen. 2016.