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1903-1914

Starting out in Russia and discovering Paris.

Marc Chagall was born in Vitebsk (Belarus, which was still an integral part of the Russian Empire) on 7th July 1887.
He was the eldest of nine children in a poor Jewish family – his father was a herring merchant.

Despite the art world being a far cry from his humble background, he was introduced to painting while going along to the studio of a local painter – Jehuda Pen - after his secondary schooling was cut short. Not long after that he met Bella, the daughter of modest jewellers, who became his fiancée and source of inspiration.

From 1907 to 1909, he moved to Saint-Petersburg, where he enrolled in several academies before working in the studio of Léon Bakst, a set designer for the Ballets Russes. It was here that he came across the works of the Parisian Avant-Garde and began dreaming of going to Paris.

His dream finally came true in 1911 thanks to a grant from the lawyer Vinaver. This was the beginning of his first trip to Paris and his art took a radical new direction as he adopted the Avant-Garde’s discoveries – from Fauvism to Cubism – for his own, brightening his colours in the process.
Chagall moved to the artist’s residence, La Ruche, in Montparnasse where he met fellow residents from the Paris School, artists: the Delaunays, Léger, Soutine, Lipchitz, Kissling, Archipenko, Modigliani; and writers: Max Jacob, André Salmon, Blaise Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire.