Marc’s Message: Religious Imagery in Chagall’s work

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As an artist, Chagall continually embraced religious themes throughout his career. He was raised in Russia as a Hasidic Jew, although he was not practicing as an adult Chagall still felt a deep connection to this upbringing. He also felt very strongly about conveying a more universal message by combining both Christian and Jewish themes throughout his work.
In 1931 Chagall was commissioned by Vollard to illustrate the Old Testament of the Bible. He fully embraced the commission and took the opportunity to travel to Palestine to immerse himself in the Holy Land. Working obsessively until the outbreak of WWII in 1939, he had completed 66 of the total 105 plates. Chagall felt that the Old Testament was very much a human story, so he combined the figures of angels with human ones. This is very evident in “Abraham and Three Angels” where the angels are seated like they came over to enjoy a glass of wine and dinner. In 1956 Chagall completed the series, which was met with great acclaim and established him as one of the 20th century’s most important artists.
Chagall also incorporated his Hasidic upbringing by painting Jewish themes. He often blended Cubism with a folk-like style to create a romantic world to contrast the grim everyday life of the Hasidic Jews. Although there are restrictions surround the pictorial depiction of many religious subjects, Chagall was able to combine his fantasy images and folk style to create visual metaphors to depict the faith of his childhood. For example, to convey the love of music that nourishes the Jewish spirit he portrayed his “Fiddler on the Roof” in a folksy village and played with the proportions. After the end of WWII in 1948, Chagall felt the need to memorialize the Jewish culture that had been destroyed all over Europe. He created a memorial book that was dedicated to 84 Jewish artists that were killed by the Nazis. It was this book that continued to inspire him to create paintings such as “Song of David”. Come into the Gallery this month to view Chagall’s unique religious works and find a piece that speaks to you to collect.