Marc Chagall Illustrations for The Bible

In 1923, Marc Chagall fled the Soviet Union and settled in France where he began working with the Parisian art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard. After commissioning Chagall to illustrate Nicolai Gogol's Les Ames mortes (Dead Souls) and Jean de La Fontaine's Fables, Vollard asked the artist to do a series of prints based on the Bible.

Chagall began work on this series in 1931. Traveling to Palestine, he completed a number of studies in gouache that served as models for 'The Bible' series engravings. By 1939, at the time of Ambroise Vollard's death, Chagall had finished sixty-six etchings. Vollard's death, along with Chagall's imprisonement for a brief period under the Vichy government, put a hold on the creation of 'The Bible' series. Following this experience, Chagall moved to New York. In 1948 he returned to France permanently, where he continued with 'The Bible' series project, finishing the black and white portfolio in 1956.

The illustrated scenes come from twelve books of the Bible including The Book of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel. Chagall's images often focus on the complex relationship between God and man. Men are called by God to perform great acts, but remain very human, capable of weakness, doubt, deception, lust, and treachery. We see this in such prints as those that illustrate the story of Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, who deceives his father, Isaac, in order to receive a blessing in place of his brother. The story of Joseph, who is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. And the story of David, who lusts after Bathsheba, subsequently sending an innocent man to his death.

'The Bible' series, illustrated with 105 engravings made by Marc Chagall, between 1930 and 1955, was ultimately published by Teriade in 1956. Teriade also brought out an issue of the review 'Verve' (nos. 33-34) which was exclusively devoted to reproductions, made by the photogravure process, of all 105 of the original etchings. For this number of 'Verve', Chagall composed 16 full-page color lithographs (of which we picture 15 on our website), and 12 in black and white, in addition to the cover and the title page. A total of 6,500 copies of the review were printed. All the color lithographs were printed separately in an edition of 75 copies numbered and signed on Arches paper. All the black and the white lithographs were also printed in an edition of 75 copies on the Arches paper, but only 5 of these: nos. 136-137-144-146, were numbered and signed.

Marc Chagall also completed several other suites based on the Bible including a set of color lithographs executed in1960, seven pieces from his 1966 large-scale series, The Story of Exodus, and a series of twelve 20-color lithographs executed in collaboration with his master printer Charles Sorlier devoted to the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Please contact Georgetown Frame Shoppe if you are interested in any additional original Marc Chagall artwork from the The Bible series, or other original art by Marc Chagall such as his lithographs, linocut prints, aquatints, posters, etchings, and signed posters. We have an extensive collection of Marc Chagall art. Also we are always buying and accepting on consignment original artwork as well so feel free to call or email us to discuss your art with us.


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