Marc Chagall White Crucifixion

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(1) Thinking about God:  Each chapter in this book reflects on images and ideas about God – aspects of the Divine Mystery that the Christian tradition may have forgotten or overlooked.

Painted in 1938, White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall shows the suffering of Jews and Jesus. Violent conflicts are depicted such as the setting on fire of synagogues. In the center of the picture Jesus is displayed, crucified and symbolized as being Jewish adorned in a prayer shawl. The original painting is currently being exhibited in the Art Institute of Chicago.

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

Marc Chagall was born in a small Hassidic community on the outskirts of Vitebsk, Belarus, on July 7, 1887. His father was a fishmonger, and his mother ran a small sundries shop in the village. As a child, Chagall attended the Jewish elementary school, where he studied Hebrew and the Bible, before later attending the Russian public school. He began to learn the fundamentals of drawing during this time, but perhaps more importantly, he absorbed the world around him, storing away the imagery and themes that would feature largely in most of his later work.

Wiki info

The October Revolution of 1917 was a dangerous time for Chagall although it also offered opportunity. Chagall wrote he came to fear Bolshevik orders pinned on fences, writing: "The factories were stopping. The horizons opened. Space and emptiness. No more bread. The black lettering on the morning posters made me feel sick at heart". Chagall was often hungry for days, later remembering watching "a bride, the beggars and the poor wretches weighted down with bundles", leading him to conclude that the new regime had turned Russia "upside down the way I turn my pictures". By then he was one of Russia's most distinguished artists and a member of the modernist avant-garde, which enjoyed special privileges and prestige as the "aesthetic arm of the revolution". He was offered a notable position as a commissar of visual arts for the country[clarification , but preferred something less political, and instead accepted a job as commissar of arts for Vitebsk. This resulted in his founding the Vitebsk Arts College which, adds Lewis, became the "most distinguished school of art in the Soviet Union".

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