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Yet throughout these phases of his style "he remained most emphatically a Jewish artist, whose work was one long dreamy reverie of life in his native village of Vitebsk." A picturesque city of churches and synagogues, it was called "Russian Toledo", after a cosmopolitan city of the former Spanish Empire.
As the city was built mostly of wood, little of it survived years of occupation and destruction during World War II. The family name, Shagal, is a variant of the name Segal, which in a Jewish community was usually borne by a Levitic family.
A turning point of his artistic life came when he first noticed a fellow student drawing.
Baal-Teshuva writes that for the young Chagall, watching someone draw "was like a vision, a revelation in black and white".
He experienced modernism's "golden age" in Paris, where "he synthesized the art forms of Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism, and the influence of Fauvism gave rise to Surrealism".
At the age of 13, his mother tried to enroll him in a Russian high school, and he recalled, "But in that school, they don't take Jews.
Without a moment's hesitation, my courageous mother walks up to a professor." She offered the headmaster 50 roubles to let him attend, which he accepted.
For decades, he "had also been respected as the world's preeminent Jewish artist".
Using the medium of stained glass, he produced windows for the cathedrals of Reims and Metz, windows for the UN, and the Jerusalem Windows in Israel.