|Marc Chagall. A house in Liozna. Oil on paper. 47x39 cm. 1908.|
As he grows up, though, he begins to feel himself more and more unusual, alien, weird – unable and, ultimately, not quite willing to fit anywhere. His clumsy Jewish studies with rabbis, his later failed attempts at studies in a Russian Gymnasium (his mother had to give a bribe to a teacher for him, a Jew, to be accepted; but he couldn't cope – and began to stutter while there); when he declared that he wanted to be a painter, his mother reluctantly took him to a local painting workshop run by Yehuda Pan. Mr. Pan agreed to teach him for free, but Chagall felt that this way of realistic "academic" portraits wasn't his (even without yet knowing what "his way" was). Since painting didn't seem like a rational career choice anyway, he worked as an apprentice to a local photographer for some time – but he didn't enjoy prettifying people's faces in photos (unless they were acquaintances, he says – in that case, it was really fun). And so he arrives at the decision to leave home and study painting in St. Petersburg. His father was angry with him, yet gave him some money for the trip.
|Marc Chagall. Self-portrait. O/c. 57x48 cm. c. 1909|
Even though he finally finds himself in company of genuine artists, the feeling of alienation, of "not belonging" only intensifies. For one thing, being Jewish in the Imperial Capital was no laughing matter. Even to be present there, let alone live there, a Jew would need a special license: for his first visit, his father helped him to a false document stating that he was traveling on behalf of one merchant or another. In order to stay, he had to be accepted into one of the Art Schools (his first attempt failed, by the way) and to get a stipend – apart from a few months for which he won a stipend in his art school, he had to find patrons to give him one. What he managed to receive, was barely enough for his tuition and a room, or, often, a corner of a shared room, or, on some occasions, a half of a shared bed. One year, he arrived in St. Petersburg after a summer at home without proper papers, and was arrested and put in jail. He describes a sense of relief at this: he didn't have to look for a stipend or a place to stay.
|Marc Chagall. Red Nude Sitting Up. O/c. 90x70 cm. 1908|
Here is one of the paintings done during his studies in St. Petersburg – one can almost feel the painter's effort to fit into stylistic and representational frames he doesn't belong to, just like the woman tries and fails to fit into his canvas.
|Marc Chagall. Butcher. Gouache on paper. 34 x 24 cm. 1910.|
However comfortable it is to be back at home, he feels that he cannot stay – and so he somewhat reluctantly leaves his family, and his beautiful fiancee, and goes to Paris, the world capital of painting.