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Marc Chagall's biography “My Life”, also known as “Mein Leiben” or “Ma Vie”, was written by Chagall in Moscow between 1921 and 1922 when he was thirty-five years old. Although long out of print, it remains one of the most imaginative and beautifully told of all autobiographies. The text is accompanied by twenty-six illustrations created by the artist in the medium of dry-point etching depicting scenes and figures in Chagall’s naïve-realistic style. Chagall was commissioned by Paul Cassirer,an art dealer, to depict his life story through a series of etchings.
Lyrical and evocative, Marc Chagall’s biography appears to have clung to an ancient doctrine where it states that a painting, like a poem, ought to symbolize the experiences of life as well as the feelings they evoke. Chagall had dreamed of being a poet in his youth and remained a lover of poetry throughout his life. His book “My Life”, itself a lyric prose poem, is an important work in Chagall’s career. It is a wonderful exploration of his Jewish-Russian memories of his beloved village Vitebsk and of his first encounters with the avant-garde in the Paris of early twentieth century. It’s a good example of Chagall’s sensitivity and spirituality.
The illustrations in Marc Chagall’s biography “My Life” are representations of his childhood and youth in the enclosed world of the Jewish-Russian villages, in particular, the concept of family and tradition. Although autobiographical, his totally personal and inventive handling of composition and picture arrangementhas made his illustrations universal statements.
More on Chagall? See Biography.