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My Life

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.

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