MOSCOW, AUG. 16 -- The first significant Soviet exhibit of paintings by Russian-born artist Marc Chagall will open Sept. 2 and is expected to draw as many as 500,000 visitors, a prominent Soviet cultural figure said today.

Poet Andrei Voznesensky said in a telephone interview that the exhibit will contain the best of the late artist's work, done both in his homeland and while living in France and the United States.

A small showing of Chagall's lithographs appeared at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow in conjunction with his visit to the Soviet capital in June 1973. But next month's exhibit at the Pushkin Museum will be the first comprehensive showing of his work, Voznesensky said.

Asked how many visitors are expected, Voznesensky said, "We could have half a million."

Chagall's widow Valentina, who lives in southern France, plans to bring 50 of his works to the Soviet Union later this month. She will also participate in opening festivities at the Pushkin, where the works will hang for at least two months, Voznesensky said.

Another 15 paintings owned by Chagall's daughter Ida have been sent to the Soviet Union for the exhibit. Also, American industrialist Armand Hammer has loaned his "Blue Angel" for the event.

Voznesensky said that in addition to the loaned works, Soviet museums have a large number of Chagall paintings and lithographs. He described the Soviet collection as "the greatest of his work from the 1920s."

Most of the paintings have been stored out of the public eye for decades.

Chagall was born in Vitebsk in 1889, in what is now the Soviet republic of Byelorussia. He worked in France for four years beginning in 1910, then returned to Russia. He emigrated in 1922. During and after World War II he spent seven years in the United States.

The artist was a French citizen and died in France on March 28, 1985.

Voznesensky wrote the introduction to a book about Chagall and his work scheduled to be issued for the exhibit. The planned publication will be the first on Chagall printed in his homeland since he left in 1922.

After the Chagall exhibit, Pushkin Director Irina Antonova plans to stage the Soviet Union's first showing of the works of Salvador Dali, Voznesensky said.