Marc Chagall's White Crucifixion: An Enduring Work of Political Art

Ariel M Kravitz


The works of Marc Chagall, a prominent and prolific Jewish artist, are among the most significant and recognizable creations to have emerged during the 20th century. The White Crucifixion was Chagall’s passionate response to the escalating atrocities by the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party that resulted in Kristallnacht. This paper examines the early life of the artist in Czarist Russia amidst historical persecution and anti-Semitism, as well as the social and political milieu in which the White Crucifixion was created. The painting’s unique combination of Christian and Jewish imagery, with an illuminated and crucified “Jewish Jesus” at the focal point, and surrounded by scenes depicting Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis is explored in detail. The paper demonstrates that the distinctive religious and cultural experiences of Marc Chagall provided the palate from which the plight of the Jews was immortalized on canvas and which expressed his outrage. Condemning the world for their silence and imploring them to act in the face of inhumanity, the White Crucifixion remains an enduring work of political art whose message is as applicable today as it was in 1938.


Political Art

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