Marc Chagall’s View of the Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris. No word sounded sweeter to me. -Marc Chagall

As the world watched the Notre Dame Cathedral burn last Monday, it evoked memories for those who have visited, or even just passed by, the iconic structure.


For Marc Chagall, who first visited Paris in 1910, the city was a captivating place, filled with artists, poets and writers and galleries and museums that fueled his passion for painting.

Chagall drew and painted the city and, specifically, Notre Dame, often. Marc Chagall embraced France and represented it, as he did with his Russian home village of Vitebsk, with a feeling of joy and wonder. When Chagall relocated to Paris in 1910, Cubism was the dominant art form. Twenty-three year old Chagall brought his colorful, poetic and mystical style to the sophisticated city.


As a young artist he struggled financially, but was artistically prolific. He returned to Vitebsk to marry Bella, his fiancee, in 1914, hoping to return with her to France, but World War l and the October Revolution of 1917 kept him in Russia until 1923, when they were finally able to return. For nearly twenty years, Chagall was able to live and work in France, establishing himself as both and important modern artist and Jewish artist.


Chagall's bright and hopeful nature is apparent in his work, although his optimism did not serve him well at the start of World War ll. It took a lot to convince Chagall to leave France, during the Nazi occupation, for the relative safety of America. It was their twenty-five year old daughter, Ida, who convinced her parents to escape to the U.S. in 1941.


Sadly, Bella died while the family was in New York, and though Chagall was comfortable among the refugees he met in the Lower East Side, he longed to return to France. Before returning to France in 1947, the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of his work.


"I lived here in America during the inhuman war in which humanity deserted itself… I have seen the rhythm of life" he wrote. "I have seen America fighting with Allies… the wealth that she has distributed to bring relief to the people who had to suffer the consequences of the war… I like America and the Americans… people there are frank. It is a young country with the qualities and faults of youth. It is a delight to love people like that… Above all I am impressed by the greatness of this country and the freedom that it gives."
– Marc Chagall


Marc Chagall lived the rest of his life working in France, and creating some of the most iconic works of the twentieth century. There is a hopefulness in much of his work that shines, even in difficult times.


Works by Marc Chagall at Surovek Gallery

Please contact us if you would like more information about Acrobats, Le Abret Verte (The Green Tree) or any of the other fine art works available at Surovek Gallery.



Jacob Baal-Teshuva. Marc Chagall, Taschen (1998, 2008)
Andy Marino.A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

April 18, 2019
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