Marc Chagall defies classification. He felt equally comfortable working in mediums as diverse as paintings, children’s books illustrations, tapestries, stained glass, set design and lithographs. He is often classified as a Jewish artist but many also consider him Russian and French. All three of these identities play important roles in his work. Additionally, Chagall was very active in Jewish avante-garde theatre in Russia, having been a set designer for numerous theater groups. These Yiddish acting troupes were often at the forefront of literature and intellectual movements and Chagall’s art helped to convey their content.
The most consistent element of Chagall’s work is his use of vivid color and imagery. Some of Chagall’s paintings hark back to his early childhood in Belarus and borrow heavily from his Jewish upbringing, but in adulthood Chagall had a more estranged relationship with Judaism. It seems that Chagall was an extremely cultural Jew, having visited Israel in 1957 and making numerous artworks based on the Torah and other Jewish texts but he sought to create universal images and content based on peace and love.
Chagall’s work has reached a wide audience not just because of his prolific production but also because of its placement in many major international museums, stained glass in numerous churches and synogagues, the great ceiling mural at the Paris Opera, and his huge murals at the Metropolitan Opera House.