I am raising funds to do a documentary film about artist Marc Chagall's life, and a period of time in the late forties when he took exile in America.
Chagall is one of the most famous artists in the world, but very little is known about his private life, which included a seven year stay in America in the late forties that was written out of the history books for thirty years. Thus the title, "Chagall's Forgotten American Exile."
But Chagall's life was absolutely Forrest Gump-like in his marvelous ability to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, like in Berlin at the onset of World War One or France at the onset of World War Two.
When the Nazis invaded France, Chagall was still in Paris, convinced somehow that his fame as an artist (and his friendships with Picasso and Matisse) would spare him as a Jew from Nazi persecution. Only a last-minute visa from journalist Varian Frye saved his and his wife Bella's lives.
Chagall ended up on the Upper West Side of New York City during the war years, taking trips to the Lower East Side to enjoy American Yiddish culture and frequent forays to Upstate New York, where he could enjoy his beloved nature.
It was during one of these trips that his wife Bella came down with strep throat and tragically died due to the wartime lack of antibiotics. For a year, Chagall was inconsolable -- his great muse was gone. Then, Chagall's daughter Ida hired a beautiful English woman named Virginia Haggard to darn his socks. One thing led to another and Haggard and Chagall eventually became lovers. When she became pregnant out of wedlock, she and Chagall had to "disappear" for a while, and the two of them ended up in a small cottage on Mohonk Road in High Falls, where Chagall would finally get the peace that he had so long sought after.
When the war ended, Chagall's daughter Ida ended up moving back to France, but Chagall, so in love with the Upstate New York countryside, stayed in High Falls until 1947, by the time of which his work had already become world famous.
Chagall stayed with Virginia for seven years until, rather incomprehensibly, she left him for an even older man. Chagall's last wife, Vava, had Virginia's story literally written out of the history books, and it wasn't mentioned until 1978, when biographer Sidney Alexander devoted several chapters of his biography of Chagall to it.
For more info on Chagall's life, go to his Wikipedia page here:
I am happy to announce that my project has received an initial thumbs-up from Bella Meyer Chagall, Marc's granddaughter, and it is my hope to do this film in tandem with the Chagall family.
Now, for a little background on me, check out my video on Hudson for a recent NY Times (see to the left of the story):
My portrait of artist Charlie Hewitt. "Charlie Hewitt/American Icon:
Or this portrait of the delightfully spiritual performer Sandra Bargman: