Former Laureates

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall


In 1960 the Erasmus Prize was devoted to Painting and awarded to Marc Chagall and Oskar Kokoschka.

Marc Chagall was born near Vitebsk (now part of present-day Belarus) in 1887, the son of a simple Russian-Jewish warehouse-assistant. He attended the art academy in St Petersburg, and studied with Leon Bakst. In 1910 an admirer of his work gave him a stipend to go to Paris. In 1914 he returned to Russia, where he worked until 1922 in the civil service. He then went back to France. He escaped the persecution of the Jews during the Second World War by emigrating temporarily to the USA. In 1947 he returned to France where he lived until his death in 1985. In Chagall’s work the powerful hand of the artist is at the service of a lyrical practice of art. Stemming from a deep religious sense and the Jewish tradition, driven and formed by the nature and essence of Russian folk-art, he was able to make a completely original contribution to the development of European painting by giving new life and new forms to the traditional principles of art. Many international commissions came Chagall’s way in later life, such as the windows of the synagogue of the Hadassah clinic in Jerusalem (1962), the ceiling of the Paris Opéra (1966) and the murals in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. For Chagall, painting was a form of poetry, or as he himself said: “Everything is subject to change in our demoralized world except our hearts, the love of this world, and our striving to experience the spiritual.”

With this prize Marc Chagall instituted a grant that would permit a number of young artists to travel and thereby to find their professional bearings. In 1965/66 four grants were awarded, to P.E. Versteeg (Rome), U. Litchitz (Paris), K. Glaz (Paris) and A. Clarens (Toulouse). In 1973 a grant was awarded to O. Legris (Paris) and G. Touzenis (Athens).

Hommage to Apollinaire

'Hommage to Apollinaire' by the French artist Marc Chagall, Erasmus Prize winner in 1960.

The Power of Music

'The Power of Music' by the Czech artist Oskar Kokoschka, Erasmus Prize winner in 1960.