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“In our life there is a single color, as on an artist’s palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.” Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall and Bella Rosenfeld met in 1909 in Vitebsk. Bella was a young charming lady interested in philosophy and history, studying acting at Stanislavsky’s studio in Moscow and writing articles for a newspaper. Marc was just at the beginning of his career, struggling with poverty, refusals and hostility. They both were born and raised around Vitebsk but had never seen each other — they were from two completely different worlds. Bella, a daughter of a wealthy jeweler, grew up in the atmosphere of serenity, calmness and security. On the contrary, Marc’s family was far from being somewhat wealthy — his father worked hard in a herring shop, trying to provide for his nine children and wife. Nevertheless, when Bella and Marc met, they felt that they were meant for each other — it truly was love from the very first sight (as it usually is in every great love stories).
This is how Marc described their first encounter in his autobiography «My life»: « … Her silence is my silence, her eyes are my eyes. It feels like we have known each other for a long time and she knows everything about me, my life, my past and my future. As if she has been watching me, feeling me next to herself, although I see her for the very first time. And I suddenly felt that she would be my wife. Her pale face, her eyes — so big, round and black! These are my eyes, my soul! ».
They got engaged one year after. But Marc, being moved by the desire of reaching freedom both in life and art, decided to go to Paris. Bella did not mind, neither did she doubt that her lover would come back. During all four years of living apart she was sending him letters, full of tenderness and affection.
Eventually, after Chagall had returned to Vitebsk in 1915, they got married. The first years after the wedding, were marked with his most well-known paintings — «Lovers in pink», «Birthday», «The Promenade», «Over the town» that are full of lightness, tenderness, romance and love. He often depicts his wife floating up in the air, being incredibly calm, feminine, beautiful.
One of his most prominent works is undoubtedly «Over the town». Here, they both are hovering above Vitebsk – the little hometown that is so dear to their hearts yet so prosaic.
Another Chagall masterpiece of him and Bella floating in the air full of love is «The Birthday». This is how Bella described this painting: « And now, we both, in unison, start floating in this colorful room. We want to break free, outside. The blue sky and clouds are calling for us».
She became the main critic and mentor for him — without her approval he did not finish any piece. Bella dedicated herself to the family — to Marc and their baby daughter Ida, yet from time to time going back to her creative nature by writing her memoirs.
After the Revolution, Marc hoped that the new era would bring him the chance to create freely and independently.
However, soon after he realized that the actual situation was far from the one he had been anticipating, thus they decided, to flee to France. They were living there up until the Second World War, managed to escape to America in may 1941. It is terrible to image what would have happened if they, both Hasidic jews, had stayed in Europe.
Being in America, all they were dreaming about was for War to be over and to be able to come back to their beloved France. Unfortunately, it was not destined to happen – Bella died from a viral infection in September 1944. For Marc it was a tragedy, a nightmare. He, who painted anytime anywhere — even on sheets, nightgown, tablecloth in his young years when he couldn’t afford proper canvas, was not able to take a brush into his hand for nine months. In memory of beloved mother and wife, soon after Ida and Marc started working on publishing Bella’s memoirs. Ida was translating it from yiddish to french, Marc was making illustrations and that little by little brought him back to life.
Overall, Marc and Bella Chagall lived together for 29 years. 29 years that were the most important of Marc’s path towards recognition. Even long after Bella’s death, she still appears on his canvas — in a form of a woman, bride, mother, angel. «For years Her love illuminated everything I did» — truly beautiful words of the loving man about his muse.
List of pictures:
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/Yvp04nceX60/URzEWwbMk1I/AAAAAAAACX8/qjNWZMIL3FU/s800/%25D0%25A8%25D0%25B0%2 5D0%25B3%25D0%25B0%25D0%25BB_%25D0%25A0%25D0%25BE%25D0%25B7%25D0%25BE %25D0%25B2%25D1%258B%25D0%25B5%2520%25D0%25BB%25D1%258E%25D0%25B1%25D 0%25BE%25D0%25B2%25D0%25BD%25D0%25B8%25D0%25BA%25D0%25B8.jpg