STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Artist Marc Chagall was prolific, creating paintings, book illustrations, stained glass pieces, stage sets, ceramics, tapestries, and fine art prints. He’s possibly best known around the world for his religious works. Some of those works are on display in the exhibit “Marc Chagall and the Bible” at Glencairn Museum, courtesy of private collector Sandra Bowden.
Marc Zakharovich Chagall (1887-1985) was a Russian-French artist. He was considered a pioneer of modernism, known for his use of color and his desire to share his Jewish heritage through his work.
The exhibit showcases works by the man whom some consider to be the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century. Viewers will see etchings and lithographs of Chagall’s graphic works and historical posters. Organizers say that etchings from his 1960 Bible series bring together the artist’s spirituality and childhood fantasy through the sophisticated artistry of a master printmaker.
Bowden, who collects religious art, focuses on artists from the 20th century as well as those from any period whose work reflects the Bible. Chagall’s work includes his own recurring symbols drawn from visual memory and imagination, she said. She likes Chagall’s work because of his use of various colors.
“They’re so rich,” she said in a telephone interview. “The lithographs are stunningly vibrant and luminous.”
But the artist fascinates her with his ability to combine the messages of the Old and New testaments. In one painting of Christ’s crucifixion (of which there are many), he also featured Abraham and Isaac in the corner. Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son and he was going to, until God spared him.
“Chagall understood the connection between sacrifice in the Old Testament and Jesus’ sacrifice,” Bowden said.
He also has a different take on the Bible, she said.
“There’s a different spirit, a more delicate spirit about his work that is beautiful and touching,” she said. “His etchings are so intricate. I feel they draw you in to them.”
Bowden hopes that viewers see the Bible through Chagall’s eyes and imagination.
“It’s an imaginary world or spiritual world that he deals with,” she said. “His work is not enslaved to gravity.”
Glencairn’s curator, Ed Gyllenhaal, thinks that visual arts make the Bible meaningful for each new generation.
“Like Chagall, many great artists have sought inspiration from biblical stories,” he said via email. “Sandra Bowden’s collection of his etchings and lithographs provides us with a window into this part of his inner life and spirit.”
And showcasing religious art from around the world can help people understand one another better, he said.
“Public exhibitions of collections of religious art from around the world can help promote mutual understanding,” he said, “and inspire respect for the diversity of human beliefs.”
IF YOU GO
What: Marc Chagall and the Bible
When: Through Sunday, Oct. 4: Tue.-Fri. with 2:30 p.m. tour or by appointment; weekends 1-4:30 p.m.
Where: Glencairn Museum, 1001 Cathedral Road, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, 19009
Admission: Donations welcome
Info.: Call (267) 502-2600 or www.glencairnmuseum.org