1911 - 1923

Chagall left the Russian Empire for Paris in 1911. Having briefly stayed in the Impasse du Maine, he then settled down in La Ruche, a compound of studio dwellings, in Montparnasse. The low rent allowed Chagall to make his home in modest quarters for very little money: “My studio was located in the rotunda, along with the most impoverished working classes. The stone buildings were home to wealthier folk, who frequently went to Montparnasse [...] I was delighted to be on the second floor. I could gaze out at the sky from my window. It was terribly poetic1,” he recounts. Though he worked there alone, he spent time with other avant-garde artists and poets, such as Zadkine, Lipchitz, Modigliani, Cendrars, and Apollinaire.

Chagall then moved to Berlin, where his work was shown at the Der Stum gallery in 1914, before returning to Russia. There he was appointed “fine arts commissioner for the Vitebsk region” and founded an art school, with artists such as El Lissitzky and Kasimir Malevitch as members of the faculty. However, after a fallout amongst the teachers, Chagall returned to Moscow to work on stage decor at the Jewish Kameny Theater, after which he worked for the Malakhovka Jewish Orphan colony as a teacher2. In 1922, Marc Chagall found his way back to Berlin before travelling to Paris in 1923.

1 Jeanine Warnod, La Ruche & Montparnasse, Genève, Weber, 1978, p. 59.
2 Chagall, du noir et blanc à la couleur (Chagall, From Black-and-White to Color, exhibition catalogue, Aix-en-Provence, Hôtel de Caumont-Art Center, November 1, 2018–March 24, 2019), Paris, Hazan, 2018, p. 188.