web analytics
May 5, 2015 / 16 Iyar, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Home » Sections » Arts »

Chagall: Love, War and Exile


The Wedding Candles (1945); oil on canvas by Marc Chagall.
Kunsthaus Zurich. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The Wedding Candles (1945); oil on canvas by Marc Chagall. Kunsthaus Zurich. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Fire in the Snow (1942); Gouache on paper by Marc Chagall. Collection: Amy and Eric Huck, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.

Fire in the Snow (1942); Gouache on paper by Marc Chagall.
Collection: Amy and Eric Huck, Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.

In the middle core section 25 paintings utilize the crucifixion as a major element. The archetypical Calvary (1912) establishes Chagall’s earliest and most hallucinogenic use of the subject to express his artistic and familial trials. Chagall has commented that the figures at the bottom of the cross represent his mother and father. All throughout the 1940’s Chagall’s paintings and drawings search for a balance between the terrifying news reaching him of Jewish suffering and his own increasingly precarious existence in Paris and subsequent exile to New York in June 1941. Fire in the Snow (1942) employs Chagall’s frequently used motif of a fleeing mother and child, here cloaked in green shadows, to fully bring home the horror of losing home, family and community. The Crucified (1944), in response to the battle for Vitebsk, Chagall’s birthplace, brutally confronts the murder of the entire Jewish populace in 1941.

Are we convinced after seeing Chagall’s works that the use of the crucifixion does somehow add to our understanding of the holocaust? For this reviewer, only rarely. White Crucifixion (1938) [Art Institute of Chicago; sadly not available for this exhibition], The Crucified (1944) and Christ in the Night (1948) have a calm horror that convinces in a totally unique manner. It is important to remember that when these works were created, Chagall (among many other artists) was actively inventing an aesthetic to talk about the most horrible crime humanity has ever seen. Their search for image and metaphor, let alone comprehensible meaning, continues to be daunting to all who consider this aspect of Jewish experience.

The third section of the exhibition explores Chagall in exile. While the war continued to haunt him, the sudden death of his beloved wife Bella in 1944 plunged him into grief only to be finally relieved by a new relationship and marriage in 1946. These 13 works reflect an artist in recovery from both catastrophic national tragedy and personal loss. The Wedding Candles (1945) is haunting in its poetic vision of a romantic past Chagall never had.

The brilliance of this exhibition lies in presenting us with a Jewish artist who is unflinching in his determination to engage the world in all its beauty and horrors using a visual language uniquely Jewish. As the excellent catalogue essays by Susan Tumarkin Goodman and Kenneth E. Silver explicate, Chagall’s use of the “Jewish crucifixion” arose within ample precedent going back to the 19th century as well as other contemporary artists grappling with the Holocaust and persecution. It is deeply significant that this view of Marc Chagall teaches us that one essential quality of great art is a relentless engagement in the unredeemed world we live in.

From: For the Slaughtered Artists (Paris, 1950):
And as I stand – from my paintings
The painted David descends to me,
Harp in hand. He wants to help me
Weep and recite chapters of Psalms.
After him, our Moses descends.
He says: Don’t fear anyone.
He tells you to lie quietly
Until he again engraves
New tablets for a new world.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Chagall: Love, War and Exile”

  1. Gil Gilman says:

    Most excellent article.

  2. Dita Gould says:

    Thank you for explaining the reason Chagall used the symbolism of the Cross.
    Now it makes sense.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Hillary Clinton and PA acting president Mahmoud Abbas. Nov. 21, 2012
Clinton Said She Will Speak on Benghazi but Only Once
Latest Sections Stories
Ganz-View-From-Window-logo

Eretz Yisrael is Eretz HaChayim – the Land of Life.

Shomron-050115-Sarita-and-Dror

After camping out in tents for a year, the Maoz family needed some time out.

Safar-050115-Califlower

Cauliflower is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with – it blends so easily into whatever dish I am preparing.

Eller-050115-Fruit

For all their deliciousness, frozen beverages do not stand the test of time well, as any ice or frozen fruit thickening your drink will melt into a watery mess.

“DouxMatok’s technology will allow for a reduction of 30-60 percent of sugar in a product, depending on the application, and with no effect on taste.”

How do we ensure that our students aren’t studying for the grade or the end-of-the-year pizza party? How can we get them to truly want to learn for learning’s sake?

The message being conveyed is that without “flour,” without the means to support oneself and one’s family, one’s focus on Torah will be impeded by worry.

Someone close to us knew that you were good at saving marriages and begged us to give therapy one last chance,

Rabbi Pinni Dunner and Holocaust survivor Heddy Orden.

He wrote a strong defense of shechitah in which he maintained that the Jewish method of slaughter had a humanitarian influence on the Jewish people.

New York State Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will be the keynote speaker at the Westchester Government Relations Legislative Breakfast on Friday, May 8, at 7:45 am at the Jewish Community Center of Harrison.  The annual event, which brings together important elected officials and the Westchester Jewish community, is sponsored jointly by UJA-Federation of New York […]

“Like other collaborative members, we embarked on this journey as an opportunity to build on New York leadership’s long commitment to expand and diversify opportunities for Jewish teen engagement,” says Melanie Schneider, senior planning executive with UJA-Federation of New York’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/chagall-love-war-and-exile/2013/11/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: