Was Marc Chagall multilingual?

A conversation last night with a lovely art lover piqued my curiosity to check if indeed Marc Chagall was indeed multilingual. Angela as was her name, had observed that most great artists spoke several languages. As she shared these thoughts, the first name that popped in my mind was of Marc Chagall who, as it turned out later, was her favorite artist from childhood. I opined that, possibly, the challenge of expressing something that is essentially spiritual through physical means necessitates skills which are similar to those of communicating in a multi-cultural environment.

Today I was quite tickled to come across this gem of an explanation, courtesy of Google Books:

Was Marc Chagall multilingual indeed?

According to “Marc Chagall and His Times: A Documentary Narrative” by Benjamin Harshav, not only was Chagall multilingual but in the painting called “Cubist Landscape”, “he surveyed his languages in their chronological order, in a multilingual recording of his name.”

Was Marc Chagall multilingual? Most certainly! Just see his "Cubist Landscape" - 1918

Was Marc Chagall multilingual? Most certainly! Just see his “Cubist Landscape” – 1918

To quote Harshav further:

“Apparently, Chagall wrote the number of repetitions in each language as the number of years spent there. The basis is Yiddish (in small letters), then eight (ten?) years in Russian (1900-1910), then four years in French (1910-1914), then again four years in Russian (1914-1918), culminating in the Art College.”

Time to go back to the Smithsonian and to the Phillips Collection! Who is coming with me?

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