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Notebook Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - In The Words Of . . . .

From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.

Marc Chagall

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How I Became a Painter
1931


Here is what happened to me in a junior high school art class. A classmate who happened to be an old hand at drawing and who was always bothering me showed me a drawing he had made on a sheet of tissue paper, a picture of a smoker taken from a copy of Niwa.

I was thrown into disarray and told him to leave me alone.

My memory is a bit foggy, but I recall being enraged that such a picture could be done by the hand of this simpleton and not my own.

A sudden, violent impulse took hold of me. I ran to the library, found a copy of Niwa and began copying a portrait of Anton Rubenstein, the composer, captivated by his wrinkled face. I worked on other illustrations, including a Greek design, and I might have also done some drawings from my imagination.

I collected my work, took it home, and hung it on the walls in my bedroom.

I was familiar with common, unpretentious words and phrases. But a fantastic, literary, otherworldly term like "artist," if I had heard it before at all, it would not have been in my home town.

It was so removed from us!

On my own, I would never have found the audacity to utter the word.

One day, a schoolmate came to visit and, seeing the drawings in my bedroom, exclaimed. "Say, you're a real artist, aren't you?"

"An artist, what's that?," I asked. "Who's an artist? Could it be that . . . I mean, am I . . . ?"

He left without saying any more on the matter.

Once he was gone, I remembered having seen a large sign in town, like the ones one sees hanging in front of boutiques, that read "Pènne's School of Painting and Drawing."

I thought, "This is my destiny. All I have to do now is register in this school and become an artist."

And so ended forever my mother's dream of seeing her son become a clerk, an accountant, or, at best, a well-established photographer.

Marc Chagall, Ma vie

[An Excerpt From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988. p. 303]




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