New data to Thea Brakhman's biography
Thea Brakhman was a friend of Bella Rosenfeld, her schoolmate at Mariinskaya grammer school in Vitebsk. Thea was born in the family of a doctor, they also had three sons. The doctor Brakhman worked as an assistant at the Red Cross pharmacy located in the third part of town at the corner of Vokzal'naya and Nizhne-Petrovskaya streets. (Address and information book of Vitebsk. Vutebsk, 1907. p.145). Marc Chagall got acquainted with Thea Brakhman through his Vitebsk friend Viktor Mekler.
According to Franz Meyer, Thea was a rather modern young girl, who " in the name of art " had overcome restrictions of the bourgeois society. During her study in Saint Petersburg where Chagall studied as well, she was his model several times and sit for his paintings naked (Meyer Fr. Marc Chagall. Paris, 1995. P.43). Acquaintance with that clever and educated girl as Chagall himself declared was a turning point in his life. Due to her, as well as Viktor Mekler, the beginning artist entered the circle of young intellectuals keen on art and poetry.
In the autumn of 1909 during his stay in Vitebsk Thea Brakhman acquainted Marc Chagall with her friend Bella Rosenfeld, who at that moment studied at one of the most prestigious institutions for girls - Gerier school in Moscow. That encounter predestined the artist's life. "With her, not with Thea, with her I have to be - it suddenly dawned upon me! She was silent, so was I. She was looking - oh, her eyes! -so was I. As if we knew each other for a very long time and she knew everything about me: my childhood, my present life and my future; as if she had always been watching me, had been somewhere around though I saw her for the first time. And I understood: she is my wife. Her eyes were shining against the pale face. Big, convex, black! These were my eyes, my soul. Thea in a moment became a stranger and I felt nothing towards her. I had come in a new house, and it became mine for ever ", - wrote Chagall later in his autobiographical book "My life " (Chagall M. My life. М., 1994. pp 76-77). In 1915 Marc and Bella got married.
In the literature dedicated to Chagall there is no later data about Thea Brakhman. Recently in the state archive of Vitebsk region we have coped to find some documents, throwing light on her activity in Vitebsk in the first years after the Revolution.
Thea Brakhman joined the active public life in December, 1918. She started to give lectures at the Proletarian University that had been just created in Vitebsk, was the leader of some seminar and acted as a secretary. Later she was promoted to the position of an instructor at the out-of-school section of Vitgubnarobraz (translator's note: Vitebsk province department of people's education) and an instructor at the art section of museum construction. As it is noted in the archival document, " at the same time she continued to give lectures and lessons at evening schools for adults, at musical schools and in groups, on the course of history of literature and Russian public and lectures on Russian national folklore " (ГАВО, ф.1947, оп.1, д.3, л.239-239 об.).
From October, 1919 to December, 1920 being an instructor at the museum section under the arts sub-division, Thea Brakhman was engaged " in work on inventory and classification of collections of the province art and archeological museum and Fedorovich museum " (ГАВО, ф.1947, оп.1, д.3, л.241).
In January 1920 the provincial Commission for protection of ancient monuments and arts which was headed by Alexander Romm was formed in Vitebsk. Thea Brakhman was invited to fill in the vacancy of the Commission's secretary (ГАВО, ф.1947, оп.1, д.3, л.146) where her duties were not only to keep records but also to participate in decision-making on various issues of museum construction.
Active and diversified public work of Thea Brakhman in Vitebsk came to its end in 1920 at the end of December upon her move " to Moscow at command of Narkompros (translator's note: People's committee for education) " (ГАВО, ф.1947, оп.1, д.3, л.237). In the beginning of June, 1921 she wrote a letter to the Commission for protection of ancient monuments and arts" about the opportunity to receive a collection of porcelain for Vitgubmusej (translator's note: Vitebsk province museum), (...) from Moscow Museum fund" (ГАВО, ф.1947, оп.1, д.5, л.26). The issue "about reception from Moscow of porcelain in quantity of 55 articles» (ГАВО, ф.1947, оп.1, д.5, л.51) was discussed at the meeting of the Commission on October, 26, 1921. Possibly that was the very collection received from the capital through the mediation of Thea Brakhman.
Unfortunately, there is no information about the further destiny of this woman, about her activity in Moscow as well as her relations with the Chagalls.