March 25, 2012

0157 BELARUS (Vitebsk) - The house where Marc Chagall grew up

In 1897, Vitebsk (at that time located in the Tsarist Empire) had 65,900 inhabitants, of which not less than 34,400 (so around 52%) were Jews. Among them was Moishe Shagal - the eldest of nine children of Khatskl (Zakhar) Shagal, employed of a herring merchant, and of Feige-Ite – born ten years ago to Liozna, a nearby settlement. Over years he would become, under the name Marc Chagall, not only "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century", but even "one of the most successful artists of the 20th century". Even though he lived most of his life in France, with an incursion to the United States, Chagall will never forget his hometown, and all his work will be placed under the sign of Eastern European Jewish folk culture.

In Russia at that time, Jewish children were not allowed to attend regular Russian schools, so Chagall therefore received his primary education at the local Jewish religious school, where he studied Hebrew and the Bible. At the age of 13, his mother tried to enroll him in a Russian high school, and even managed, after she giving to headmaster 50 roubles (his father won 20 roubles per month). In 1906 he had noticed the studio of Yehuda (Yuri) Pen, a realist artist who also operated a small drawing school in Vitebsk, who offered to teach him free of charge. After a few months, Chagall realized that academic portrait painting didn’t suit his desires, and he moved to Saint Petersburg. Chagall stayed in Saint Petersburg until 1910, often visiting Vitebsk where he met Bella Rosenfeld, who will be his wife for 29 years, until her death, in 1944. Chagall also founded the Vitebsk Arts College before leaving again for Paris in 1922.

In 1992, 7 years after his death, and 70 years after he leaving Russia defined, was opened in Vitebsk, on Putna street, Marc Chagall Art Center, which holds a collection consisting of the series of illustrations to Nicolai Gogol's poem Dead Souls (1923–1925), the series of colour lithographs on the theme of the Bible, made in 1956 and 1960, the cycle of colour lithographs The 12 Tribes of Israel (1960) and other works.

After another 5 years, in the house in Pokrovskaia street (the one from the picture), built by the artist's father in the beginning of the 20th century, has opened Marc Chagall Museum, which gathers articles of family life, as well as copies of archives documents and of works by Chagall, relating the artist's and his family's life in Vitebsk. At the yard of the house is a sculpture named French violin. "There, in Pokrovskaya street, I was born once again" - recalled Marc Chagall many years after leaving Vitebsk forever.

The stamps belong to the Garden Flowers series, about which I wrote here (and from which so far I have 5 values).

sender: Daria Mikhailova (postcrossing)
sent from Gomel (Belarus), on 17.01.2012

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