Marc Chagall. My Life (Mein Leben). 1922, published 1923

Marc Chagall

My Life (Mein Leben)

1922, published 1923

Author
translation by Bella Chagall
Medium
Portfolio of twenty etchings (fifteen with drypoint)
Dimensions
plate (see child records): dimensions vary; sheet (see child records): dimensions vary
Publisher
Paul Cassirer, Berlin
Printer
probably Pan-Presse, Berlin
Edition
110
Credit
The Louis E. Stern Collection
Object number
726.1964.1-21
Copyright
© 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris
Department
Drawings and Prints
This work is not on view.
Marc Chagall has 215 works  online.
There are 5,165 illustrated books online.

Known as a Parisian artist, Marc Chagall always maintained an interest in his Russian origins and his Jewish heritage, and he often depicted scenes from his youth in the provincial town of Vitebsk. After working and exhibiting in Paris from 1910 to 1914, Chagall returned to Russia, where he remained until 1922. There he formed friendships with Russian avant-garde poets and painters and worked toward creating a modern Jewish art through his journal illustrations, children's books, and designs for the Jewish State Theater.

Chagall was introduced to printmaking in Berlin in 1922, at the age of thirty-five. (He would eventually complete one hundred twenty-three intaglios and woodcuts, more than eleven hundred lithographs, and thirty-eight illustrated books.) He had arrived there with an autobiographical manuscript he had been working on since 1911. The gallerist Paul Cassirer saw the text, My Life, and hoped to publish a translation of it that would include prints by Chagall. Responding immediately to this new medium of printmaking, the artist completed his first etchings within three weeks. They were issued as a portfolio without text, due to translation difficulties with Chagall's unusual prose. Drawing on vivid childhood memories of village life in Vitebsk, the artist depicted himself, his wife and child, his parents, his childhood home, local figures such as the teacher of the Talmud, and events that had taken place there.

These scenes of life in Russia were still fresh in Chagall's mind in 1923, when he began the etchings for Nikolai Gogol's novel Les Âmes mortes, the classic Russian text that was to be his first book collaboration with the renowned publisher Ambroise Vollard. A notorious perfectionist, Vollard left twenty-five unfinished projects at the time of his death in 1939, including Les Âmes mortes. The volume was later completed in 1948 by Tériade, another of the great twentieth-century publishers of illustrated books.

Publication excerpt from Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 86

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA's collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

If you would like to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA, please contact Scala Archives (all geographic locations) at firenze@scalarchives.com.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email text_permissions@moma.org. If you would like to publish text from MoMA's archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to archives@moma.org.

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to digital@moma.org.