Chagall: back to his roots in Belarus

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He is one of the 20th century’s most famous painters.

Though many consider him a French artist, Marc Chagall was born and bred in Vitebsk in present-day Belarus, a city that appeared in many of his early paintings.

It is home to the Chagall Art Centre, founded in 1992, which features more than 300 etchings, lithographs and aquatints by the famous painter, best known for his vibrant and colourful imagery of people and animals floating through space.

“Unfortunately, we have no oil paintings by Chagall in Belarus. This sad situation is a legacy of the Soviet era. After the Second World War, Chagall was considered French – it was even printed in encyclopedias that were published before 1980. They wrote: Marc Chagall, French artist,” says Lyudmila Khmelnitskaya, director of the Chagall Art Centre.

Chagall’s roots are very present in his work – even after he first emigrated to Paris in 1910. Though many of his painting and drawings included Parisian scenes, they were still strongly influenced by Jewish imagery and memories of Vitebsk.

The small red-brick house where he lived is now a museum. People in the city would like to see his art return to his hometown.

“I’m proud that Marc Chagall lived in Vitebsk, a town he represented in many of his works. And I want Chagall’s paintings to return here,” says local resident Olga Skvortsova.

Forced to flee to the United States along with other Jewish artists during World War Two, Chagall later returned to France where he stayed until his death.

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