In New York, Chagall got back in touch with many friends, writers and artists who were also refugees: Léger, Masson, Mondrian, Bernanos, Maritain and Breton. He exhibited at the Pierre Matisse Gallery.
He renewed old ties with Russian writers that had been sent to New York by the Soviet ally. Talking Yiddish once again with them and discovering the vast American snowscapes, which reminded him of the landscapes where he grew up, rekindled Chagall’s inspiration in Russia – even though his paintings were marked by the war and anguish for the fate of Jews. Christ, who symbolised the martyrdom of Europe’s Jewish populations, became the central figure in his paintings for a while (White Crucifixion, 1939, Chicago Art Institute - Obsession, 1943, National Museum of Modern Art, Centre Georges Pompidou).
In 1942, he helped to create the ballet Aleko in Mexico (music by Tchaikovsky), for which he produced the scenery and costumes.
In 1944, just as peace was dawning, Bella died suddenly. For all that, Chagall created the decoration and costumes for Firebird (music by Stravinsky) a year later and soon after met his new partner Virginia Haggard.
By the end of the war, Chagall had gained worldwide recognition: he attended the retrospectives of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and then in Paris and elsewhere in Europe.