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Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, engraver, illustrator, decorative and applied artist, writer. Born Moishe Shagal to a poor Hassidic family in Vitebsk (1887). Worked as a photographer’s apprentice after finishing high school (1906). Studied at the Yehuda Pen School of Painting and Drawing in Vitebsk (1906), School of Drawing of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in St Petersburg (1907–08), at the drawing classes of Savely Seidenberg (1908), under Léon Bakst and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky at the Elizaveta Zvantseva School of Painting and Drawing (1909) and under André Dunoyer de Segonzac and Henri Le Fauconnier at the Académie de la Grand-Chaumière and Académie de la Palette in Paris (1910–14). Blended the techniques of Fauvism and Cubism with his own folkish style. Rented a studio at La Ruche in Montparnasse (1911), where he associated with such other members of the École de Paris as the painters Jean Metzinger, Robert Delaunay, Fernand Léger and Amedeo Modigliani, sculptors Jacques Lipchitz, Henri Laurens and Alexander Archipenko and poets Guillaume Apollinaire, Blaise Cendrars and Max Jacob. Returned to Vitebsk (1914), where he married a wealthy jeweller’s daughter called Bella Rosenfeld (1915) and moved with her to Petrograd (1915). Worked for the Committee of War and Industry and designed sets and costumes for Nikolai Yevreinov’s cabaret shows at the Halt of Comedians (1915). Illustrated Yitshok Leyb Perets’s The Magician and Der Nistor’s The Tale of the Cockerel, The Little Goat and The Mouse (1916). Designed the sets and curtain for a Nikolai Gogol festival at the experimental Hermitage Theatre (1917). Turned down an offer from the Provisional Government to work for a planned ministry of art and returned to Vitebsk after the Bolshevik revolution to live with his wife’s parents (1917). Appointed provincial commissar for arts and education in Vitebsk (1918), where he decorated the streets on the first anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution (1918) and founded the Vitebsk School of Art (1919). Invited Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, Jean Pougny, Kazimir Malevich, El Lissitzky and Yehuda Pen to teach at the Vitebsk School of Art and was elected director, but resigned after a conflict with Kazimir Malevich (1919). Moved to Moscow (1920), where he worked for Abram Efros and Alexei Granovsky at the Jewish Chamber Theatre, designing the sets and costumes for a series of one-act plays based on the works of Sholem Aleichem (1920–21). Resigned after a disagreement with Alexei Granovsky and worked for the Habima Theatre and Moscow Art Theatre (1921). Emigrated to Kaunas (1922), Berlin (1922) and Paris (1923), adopted French citizenship (1937). Wrote memoirs of his life in Russia (1921–22), which were translated into French by Bella (Ma vie, 1931) and published in English (My Life, 1960). Took up engraving (1922) and illustrated the works of Nikolai Gogol and Jean de La Fontaine (1923–30) and the Bible (1930–39). Visited Palestine, Egypt and Syria with his family (1931). Designed the sets and costumes for Bronislava Nijinska’s unstaged ballet Les variations (1932). Visited Spain (1934) and Warsaw (1935). Painted a series of works on the theme of the Crucifixion in response to the growing persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany (1937–38). Moved to Saint-Dyé-sur-Loire (1939). Trapped in Vichy France following the German invasion (1940), briefly arrested and imprisoned in Marseille (1941). Emigrated to the United States with the help of Alfred H. Barr of the Museum of Modern Art (1941). Lived in New York (1941–47), where he designed the sets and costumes for performances of Léonide Massine’s ballet Aleko to the music of Peter Tchaikovsky in Mexico and New York (1942) and George Balanchine’s ballet L’Oiseau de feu to the music of Igor Stravinsky at the Metropolitan Opera (1945). After the death of his wife Bella (1944) entered into a relationship with his English maid and cook, Virginia Haggard (1945), the impoverished great-niece of the writer Henry Rider Haggard, who gave birth to a son David (1946), but left him for the photographer Charles Leirens (1952). Illustrated The Arabian Nights and Paul Éluard’s Le dur desir de Durer (1946). Returned to France and settled near Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the western suburbs of Paris (1947). Designed murals for the Watergate Theatre in London (1949). Moved to a villa in Vence in the Côte d’Azur (1950), where he took up ceramics (1950) and stone sculpture (1951). Illustrated Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron (1950), Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe (1952) and the Bible (1952–67). Married his Russian-Jewish housekeeper Valentine (Vava) Brodsky and visited Greece (1952). Designed the sets and costumes for a performance of Maurice Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé at the Opéra national de Paris and stained-glass windows for a baptistery at Assy in Savoy (1957), Cathedral Saint-Etienne de Metz (1958), Metz Cathedral (1958–60), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1960–62), All Saints’ Church in the Kent village of Tudeley in England (1963–78), Fraumünster Cathedral in Zurich (1967), Reims Cathedral (1974), St Stephen’s Church in Mainz (1977), Chichester Cathedral (1978) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1979). Painted the ceiling of the Opéra national de Paris (1963–64) and designed the sets and costumes for a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte at the Metropolitan Opera (1965). Created a stained-glass window and a mosaic for the United Nations Headquarters in New York (1964) and mosaics, twelve panels and three tapestries for the new Israeli parliament building (Knesset) in Jerusalem (1965–69). Moved to Saint-Paul de Vence (1966). Illustrated the poems of Andrei Voznesensky (1969), Homer’s Odyssey (1972), William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1975), Louis Aragon’s Celui Qui Dit Les Choses Sans Rien Dire (1976), André Malraux’s Et sur la terre (1977) and the Psalms of David (1978). Visited Moscow and Leningrad at the invitation of Soviet minister of culture Ekaterina Furtseva (1973). Painted a series of circus works (1979–84). Died in Saint-Paul de Vence and buried at the local cemetery, where it is traditional to add a pebble to the pile on his grave (1985). Contributed to exhibitions (from 1910). Contributed to Salon des Indépendants (1912–14), Salon d’Automne (from 1912), World of Art (1912, 1913, 1922), Donkey’s Tail (1912), Target (1913), Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon in Berlin (1913), Moscow Salon (1915), 1915 (1915), Strindberg Salon in Helsinki (1916), Knave of Diamonds (1916, 1917), Modern Russian Painting (1916), Exhibition of Paintings and Sculptures by Jewish Artists (1917), Modern Painting and Drawing (1918), First State Exhibition of Works of Art (1919), First State Exhibition of Pictures by Local and Moscow Artists at the Borokhov Club in Vitebsk (1919), Exhibition of Three with Nathan Altman and David Sterenberg in Moscow (1922), Die erste russische Kunstausstellung at the Galerie van Diemen in Berlin (1922), Vienna Sezession (1924), Contemporary French Art at the Museum of New Western Art in Moscow (1928), Kunst unserer Zeit at the Vienna Künstlerhaus (1930), Society of Dutch Artists (1932), Entartete Kunst in Munich (1937) and Vienna (1939), Venice Biennale (1948, first prize for graphic art), international exhibition in Amsterdam (1914) and the exhibitions of Russian art in Paris (1925, 1931, 1936), Wilmington (1932) and Philadelphia (1932). One-man shows in Berlin (1914, 1923), Jewish Chamber Theatre in Moscow (1921, 1922), Galerie Centaur in Brussels (1924), Reinhardt Gallery in New York (1926), Institute of Jewish Culture in Vilnius (1935), Leicester Gallery in London (1935), Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (1938), Paris (1939), Galerie Yvonne Zervos in Paris (1940), Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris (1947), Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1947), Tate Gallery in London (1947), Berne Kunsthalle (1951), Bezalel Art Museum in Jerusalem (1951), Albertina Museum in Vienna (1953), Galerie Maeght in Paris (1954), Hanover (1955), Jerusalem (1962), Tokyo/Kyoto (1963), Toulouse (1967), Louvre in Paris (1967), Fondation Maeght (1967,1977, 1981, 1984), Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow (1973), East Berlin (1974), Dresden (1974), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (1975), Tokyo/Kyoto/Nagoya (1976), Palazzo Pitti in Florence (1978), Geneva (1979), Paul Matisse Gallery in New York (1979), Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall (1980, 1984), Galerie Matignon in Paris (1981), Hermitage Museum in Leningrad (1981), Copenhagen (1983), Memphis (1983), Rome (1984), Basle (1984) and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (1984). Retrospectives at the Galerie Barbazanges in Paris (1924), Basle Kunsthalle (1933), Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York (1941), Museum of Modern Art in New York (1946), Art Institute of Chicago (1946), Düsseldorf Kunsthalle (1949), Zurich Kunsthaus (1950), Galerie Maeght in Paris (1950), Palazzo Madama in Turin (1953), Paris (1959), Munich (1959), Hamburg (1959), Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne (1967), Zurich Kunsthaus (1967), Saint-Paul de Vence (1967, 1984), Grand Palais in Paris (1969), Moderna Museet in Stockholm (1982), Galerie Orangerie-Reinz in Cologne (1982), Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York (1982), Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen (1982), Royal Academy in London (1985), Philadelphia Museum of Art (1985) and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1985). Honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Literature (1959), awarded the Grand-Croix of the Légion d’honneur (1977).