Marc Chagall. View from a Window. Vitebsk, 1908. St. Petersburg.

Moscow. The State Tretyakov Gallery

Most of what is known about Chagall’s early life has come from his autobiography, My Life. In it, he described the major influence that the culture of Hasidic Judaism had on his life as an artist. Vitebsk itself had been a center of that culture dating from the 1730s with its teachings derived from the Kabbalah. Goodman describes the links and sources of his art to his early home:

Chagall’s art can be understood as the response to a situation that has long marked the history of Russian Jews. Though they were cultural innovators who made important contributions to the broader society, Jews were considered outsiders in a frequently hostile society… Chagall himself was born of a family steeped in religious life; his parents were observant Hasidic Jews who found spiritual satisfaction in a life defined by their faith and organized by prayer. (in Wikipedia)