Born to a Jewish family in Vitebsk, Chagall went to St. Petersburg at the age of 20 to study art. Traveling to Paris in 1910, it was here that he discovered Cubism - a technique that he was to adapt to portray the personalized fantasy life of much of his later work. Poetically visual, his work was admired by the literary scene, among them the poets, Blaise Cendars, Max Jacobs and Guillaume Apollinaire.
Upon the outbreak of World War I, Chagall returned to Russia where he was later made Commissar of Fine Arts in his hometown, following the Russian Revolution. Leaving this post following differences with Malevich as to the conduct of art education, he then became the designer for the State Jewish Theatre before returning to Paris in 1923.
Almost 20 years on Chagall traveled to America at the invite of the Museum of Modern Art. Remaining here for seven years, Chagall later returned to Paris where he was variously commissioned; these included several stained glass works for the United Nations Building in New York, Tudeley Church in Kent, UK and the a commission for the ceiling of the Paris Opera in 1964.
Chagall is invariably linked to the Surrealists as a result of his fantastical imagery; however, infact he had no formal contact with the group and any influence he may have had on them was indirect. Chagall published a biography in 1931 entitled 'Ma Vie', with an English translation appearing in 1965.