In his introduction, Kagan portrays Chagall not only as a poet and a painter but also as an individual who was full of love. Chagall’s happy childhood as the first-born of nine children gave him a positive outlook on life, along with a love for his fellow humans. His affection for his native peasant village is evident in his art, which includes the animals of his village and fiddlers on rooftops, images that reappear throughout his work. Chagall’s art also depicts his fascination with passionate lovers.
Kagan’s portrayal of Chagall’s art is favorable. The book emphasizes Chagall’s life from the time that he began to study art seriously, with the majority of this emphasis on the artist’s later years. Kagan credits the major contributors to Chagall’s entry into the art world and highlights several other prominent artists for their influence on his work. Jehuda Pen, a renowned Jewish painter in Vitebsk, encouraged Chagall to pursue his dream, and Chagall entered Pen’s art school, St. Petersburg Academy. There, Chagall met Victor Mekler, who became another mentor and encouraged his study. The major influences on Chagall’s art were Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh. Chagall paid his respects to Gauguin in a work entitled Homage to Gauguin, which was inspired by Gauguin’s Te Rerioa, and the influence of van Gogh is reflected in Chagall’s painting The Dead Man.
Kagan carefully researched and documented his biography. Brief mention is made of Chagall’s personal life, of his daughter, Ida, and of his two wives. He was married to Bella Rosenfeld, the daughter of a wealthy jeweler in Vitebsk, for more than thirty years. Years after her death, he married Valentine (Vava) Brodsky, who was introduced to him by Ida.
The photographs of Chagall’s art are chronologically arranged, and they complement the narrative so that the reader can clearly see the evolving artist. The biography is an early exposure to the life, influences, and development of Chagall. It also explains what inspired him to...
(The entire section is 843 words.)