• 28 Feb 2018

Beaux Arts Magazine published a book in September 2017 with a surprising way of approaching Art history. Indeed, in his book entitled Amours fous, Passions fatales, Alain Vircondelet selected around thirty celebrated Artist couples to better unveil their intimate and sometimes scandalous relation to Art. The idea is to enter the artistic creation secrecy of the great masters such as G. Klimt and E. Flöge, P. Picasso and F. Gilot, M. Ray and Kiki de Montparnasse, but first and foremost Marc Chagall and Bella Rosenfeld. We shine a light on this iconic duo.

This Artwork by Marc Chagall was made in 1915 and is entitled The Birthday.

The Birthday, 1915 © Marc Chagall

Love at first sight

Marc Chagall and Bella Rosenfeld met in 1909 in Russia when they both were in their twenties. As soon as they met, the couple seemed to share a common perspective on the world. Indeed, Bella Rosenfeld, talented writer, wrote about her encounter with Marc Chagall: “When you did catch a glimpse of his eyes, they were as blue as if they’d fallen straight out of the sky. They were strange eyes … long, almond-shaped … and each seemed to sail along by itself, like a little boat.” The encounter happened at Théa’s who was Marc Chagall’s lover at the time, and a friend of Bella Rosenfeld. The Artist described this encounter in 1922 which is included in his autobiography. His tone is that of someone who is deeply in love and mesmerized: “her silence is mine. Her eyes are mine. It is as if she’s known me for a very long time (…)”. Such an unbreakable love would never leave Marc Chagall despite the death of his lover in 1944 because of a viral infection she caught in the United States.

An everlasting adoration

An important part of Marc Chagall’s Artworks is dedicated to Bella Rosenfeld, whether it was made while she was still alive or after her death. As a result, her influence on the painter’s artistic production was essential. On the occasion of their encounter, Marc Chagall, at the age of 22 year-old was the student of Russian painter Léon Bakst. He was very well known in Europe, especially for his drawings, paintings, decors and costumes. Even though he was respected by the Court and by the Fine Arts academy of his time, his artistic statement aimed at distancing cubism to propose a new approach of Russian Art. It was under his guidance that Marc Chagall grew up before leaving for Paris which was the Art capital of the world. The couple went back to Russia in 1916 in Vitebsk, their city of youth. Unfairly killed by a viral disease, Bella Rosenfeld remained Marc Chagall’s absolute human being. In fact, the year after she died in 1944, Marc Chagall, crushed with sadness, did not paint for a year.

This picture by Shalom Books represents Bella Rosenfeld Chagall.

Bella Rosenfeld Chagall © Shalom Books

An influence on the artistic production

The eternal bride wearing white is a central theme in Marc Chagall’s artistic production. Such an evocation of Bella Rosenfeld gives her a sacred dimension, if not biblical. Indeed, she is mainly represented as a flying form that engulfs the canvas to better protect it. The repetition of such a pattern on the painter’s Artworks until he passed away suggests an adoration of the person he loved. Bella Rosenfeld became a goddess constantly praised and worshiped, both when she was alive and after she died. Her presence illuminates the master’s Artworks through time. It emphasizes the “operating chemistry” like the Artist said about his encounter with the young lady as well as the story they built together.

This Artwork by Marc Chagall is entitled Self Portrait with five fingers and made in 1913.

Self portrait with five fingers, 1913 © Marc Chagall


Read our article about the Los Angeles based Hammer Museum and its 50 million dollars donations here.

Sources: Beaux-Arts Magazine and The Guardian