Marc Chagall’s Powerful Portraits: Part 2

Chagalll_Jew in Green

Marc Chagall, Jew in Green, 1914. Oil on cardboard laid down on fiberboard, 39 1/2 x 32 in. Im Obersteg Foundation, permanent loan to the Kunstmuseum Basel © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Marc Chagall’s three monumental portraits from 1914, Jew in Red, Jew in Black and White, and Jew in Green, are on view in Gauguin to Picasso: Masterworks from Switzerland. Read more about Jew in Black and White here.

I start from the initial shock of something actual and spiritual, from some definite thing, and then go on toward something more abstract.—Chagall

The model for Jew in Green, a rabbi who introduced himself as the Preacher of Slouzk, left a profound effect on Chagall. He explained, “I had the impression that the old man was green; perhaps a shadow fell on him from my heart.” Chagall depicted him impoverished and in despair, with one eye open, the other closed, and his hands painted in different colors. Behind him are religious texts he recited daily in Hebrew, including the Kaddish, a prayer praising God: “He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace for us and for all Israel.” In 1936, Karl Im Obersteg acquired Jew in Green from Chagall by trading it for another picture by the artist.


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