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Author photo. Bella with white collar, by Marc Chagall, 1917.

Bella with white collar, by Marc Chagall, 1917.

Bella Chagall (1895–1944)

Author of Burning lights

Includes the names: Bella Chagall

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Bella Chagall, née Rosenfeld, was born to a prosperous Orthodox Jewish family in Vitebsk, Russia (present-day Belarus). Her parents provided a secular education and opportunities as well as a traditional Jewish education. She attended Russian language schools and became a student at the Faculty of Letters at Moscow University in her teens. She was particularly interested in literature, art, and theater, and contributed articles to a Moscow newspaper. In 1909, while visiting friends in St. Petersburg, she met Marc Chagall, and they fell in love at first sight. They became engaged despite her family's disapproval of this penniless artist. The couple married in 1915 and had a daughter the following year. In 1922, they moved to France. Bella was a frequent subject in her husband's art, often represented as a beloved bride. She also edited and translated his autobiography Ma Vie (1931) from Russian into French. Her own work, the memoir Burning Lights, written in Yiddish in 1939, was published posthumously in English in 1946. A second volume, First Encounter, appeared in 1983. The Chagalls fled to the USA following the outbreak of World War II, settling in New York in 1941. Bella Chagall died in 1944, apparently of a viral infection.
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