|The White Crucifixion,|
1938, Marc Chagall
Knowing what we do about Chagall, the pre-WW II history of Europe, Jewish traditions, the Holocaust, and all the other baggage this painting carries with it, makes understanding it all the more difficult. Of course Chagall was outraged and fearful of what he knew and heard of the plight of Jews in Europe. But what is he trying to say, juxtaposing all this against the merciless whiteness of a crucifixion? Was he portraying the persecution of the Jews as retribution for a Jewish role in the crucifixion? Was he simply portraying Christ's crucifixion as the ultimate Jewish persecution? Perhaps he was equating it to the quiet desperation of Jews in the world at the time? Whatever the case, the experience of the painting is one of immense tragedy, made all the more powerful to us now by the then unknown and unfathomable horrors that were to come.