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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 May 2010
A splendid book. The portrayal of Chagall the man and of his family life are excellent, and the author has of course been helped by Chagall's own fascinating autobiographical writings. The interpretations of his paintings and etchings are very good - especially on the tension between and/or fusion of Russian and French, Jewish and Christian influences. The cultural and political background and how Chagall responded to them are very well described, particularly the artistic-cum-ideological struggle with Malevich on the one hand and socialist realism on the other during his years in the Soviet Union. We get vivid pictures of the Russian émigré communities in Berlin, Paris and New York. There is a good deal on what happened to other artists, especially Russian ones, during those terrible years.

The allocation of pages is about right also and reflects the importance of his art at various stages of his life: 245 pages on the 22 years - his most creative ones - of his career in pre-war Russia, his first stay in Paris, and his time in war-time and then Soviet Russia; 100 pages on the 21 years of his second stay in France; 50 pages on his seven years in the United States; and about 60 pages on his last 37 years back in Europe during which his art tended to be rather formulaic, with little that was new or creative. Wullschlager dates this deterioration to the death of Chagall's wife and muse Bella in 1944, who, in particular, represented his link with his Russian past; and in this last section she concentrates heavily and interestingly on Chagall's private life, devotes relatively little space to his paintings and then tends to comment on how inferior (though "enduringly popular") many of them were. But he was ready to work in new media - ceramics, tapestries, lithographs and, above all, stained glass.

Chagall was immensely prolific, and it is understandable, if frustrating, that only a relatively few of the very many paintings the author discusses can be illustrated in the book. Many of them are not even illustrated in the massive tome written by Franz Meyer about his father-in-law. With patience many of the missing ones - but certainly far from all - can be found on Google Images. There are 32 colour plates and 159 black and white illustrations (74 of Chagall's works and 85 photographs of people and places).
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on 17 August 2015
Couldn't finish it because it was so boring. It's a huge book where the author dedicates immense effort to discuss the (possible) personality Chagall's friends/lovers, no real core matter that can grab the reader in my opinion.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 1 May 2010
A splendid book. The portrayal of Chagall the man and of his family life are excellent, and the author has of course been helped by Chagall's own fascinating autobiographical writings. The interpretations of his paintings and etchings are very good - especially on the tension between and/or fusion of Russian and French, Jewish and Christian influences. The cultural and political background and how Chagall responded to them are very well described, particularly the artistic-cum-ideological struggle with Malevich on the one hand and socialist realism on the other during his years in the Soviet Union. We get vivid pictures of the Russian émigré communities in Berlin, Paris and New York. There is a good deal on what happened to other artists, especially Russian ones, during those terrible years.

The allocation of pages is about right also and reflects the importance of his art at various stages of his life: 245 pages on the 22 years - his most creative ones - of his career in pre-war Russia, his first stay in Paris, and his time in war-time and then Soviet Russia; 100 pages on the 21 years of his second stay in France; 50 pages on his seven years in the United States; and about 60 pages on his last 37 years back in Europe during which his art tended to be rather formulaic, with little that was new or creative. Wullschlager dates this deterioration to the death of Chagall's wife and muse Bella in 1944, who, in particular, represented his link with his Russian past; and in this last section she concentrates heavily and interestingly on Chagall's private life, devotes relatively little space to his paintings and then tends to comment on how inferior (though "enduringly popular") many of them were. But he was ready to work in new media - ceramics, tapestries, lithographs and, above all, stained glass.

Chagall was immensely prolific, and it is understandable, if frustrating, that only a relatively few of the very many paintings the author discusses can be illustrated in the book. Many of them are not even illustrated in the massive tome written by Franz Meyer about his father-in-law. With patience many of the missing ones - but certainly far from all - can be found on Google Images. There are 32 colour plates and 159 black and white illustrations (74 of Chagall's works and 85 photographs of people and places).
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on 9 January 2012
I agree with all the other reviewers that this is a really splendid book. Jackie Wullschager is a very fine writer who presents a wonderfully engaging picture of Chagall.

One quibble: there is almost no information relating to the current whereabouts of any of the works -- including those reproduced in the book. All we get is a blanket copyright notice. Such a pity.
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on 21 May 2010
A very good read, both scholarly and entertaining. Very informative, thought provoking not just about Chagall as artist but about Jews in Russia and then in exile. My only criticism is that it is a big, heavy book, impossible to read while lying down.
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on 26 January 2009
This is a remarkable biography, written with the cooperation of the Chagall estate &, for the first time, compiled with rare access to Russian archives including the correspondence of Marc Chagall & his first wife. Bella was his muse & his link back to the homeland. Vitebsk was part of the Pale of Settlement for Russian Jews & the inspiration for the majority of Chagall's paintings.

Wullschlager is fulsome in her praise of Chagall's early works; hundreds up until World War Two, her descriptions are eloquent. But she is less kind about his subsequent paintings from 1940, suggesting that they are pastiches & repetitive reproductions of oft repeated themes. It is here that I take exception to her exposition. Yes: his themes - violins, Russian skylines, donkeys, goats & lovers are familiar; but they are the essence of Chagall.

Where I take exception to Wullschlager's book is in the scant coverage that she has given to his work on glass which, with the collaboration of Charles Marq, in his Rheims workshop, was to occupy the last 25 years of Chagall's life. At 73 years old Marc Chagall found a new medium into which he poured exceptional energy and love for the last quarter of his life, until his death in his 98th year. His windows, "Painting in Light" as he called it, were the culmination of his creative genius.

In a book of 522 pages we are frequently told by the writer of Chagall's parsimony when selling his lithographs. She does, however, mention his refusal of payment for any art destined for a place of worship and this goes some way to redress the balance of emphasis in this book.
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on 9 July 2012
A wonderfully vivid and sympathetic biography of Chagall, and his life in a time of historical turmoil.
I appreciated his paintings more deeply after reading this wonderful book.
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on 24 November 2012
This is an exquisitely written book, which paints a vivid portrait of the life and times of Marc Chagall. The attention to detail is masterful.
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on 8 February 2013
I feel very lucky to have got this book in good condition at a very reasonable price. Thank you so much..
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on 21 February 2009
I was taking a step into the unknown with this biography as although I go to the famous art galleries in London I don't come across Chagall's works so I only knew of him through prints in general art histories.

I think he's coming from Vitebsk had an influence on me buying the book (as some of my grandfather's family came from there) and also the decent reviews.

I enjoyed this biography especially the first half where the experiences and physical locations are more vivid.
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