Chagall Crucifixion


Oil on canvas 154.6 x 140 cm (60 7/8 x 55 1/16 in.) Signed and dated, l.r.: "MArc ChAgAll/ 1938" Gift of Alfred S. Alschuler, 1946.925

Chagall engaged in a weekly study of Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, in Hebrew. His command of biblical idiom was fluent, as his recollection here of Psalm 22:1—though in Yiddish—shows (“Hastu mir verlatzen, mein Gott? Fer was?”). But the first line in the stanza, the allusion to Luke 9:23, reveals also a knowledge of the New Testament. Here, as in his paintings, the two testaments are drawn together in a personal expression of spiritual distress.

What are a series of paintings featuring the crucifixion doing on show at New York’s Jewish Museum? After all—as the museum’s senior curator acknowledges—some constituents may find such a display rather transgressive.

Marc Zakharovich Chagall ( / ʃ ə ˈ ɡ ɑː l / shə- GAHL ; [3] [nb 1] 6 July [ O.S. 24 June] 1887 – 28 March 1985) was a Russian - French artist . [1] An early modernist , he was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in virtually every artistic format, including painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints.

Chagall continued to grapple with the immense tragedy of the Holocaust and frequently used the crucifixion as a symbol in his works, but now more and more in a radically different role.  As he sought answers in his role of artistic prophet he now utilized the crucifixion as a kind of universal symbol, “attempting to reconcile mankind whose foundations had been shaken to the core by the Holocaust.”  Chagall pursued a vision of a humanity united under the imagined dual inspiration of Judaism and Christianity. 

Marc Chagall is the prototypical Jewish artist, whose green Fiddler on the Roof became an enduring symbol of the precarious, joyful life of Eastern Europe’s Jews.

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