On the Spirit and the Self: The Religious Art of Marc Chagall

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This book compliments and extends the scholarship surrounding Chagall’s place in the History of 20th Century Art as a Religious artist. Central to this study is the psychic process of individuation and the ways in which images appear to depict the deeper changes in our collective human existence. A new perspective on Chagall’s creative output is presented through the application of Jungian theory: Jung identifies a separation between the cultural and historical underpinnings of natal faith, or creed, and the presence of an internal, personal spirituality, or religious attitude. This theoretical approach helps to define Chagall’s creative connection to his own natal Hasidic faith whilst clarifying the interiority of his religious experiences on a universal level. Primary source materials reflecting the Artist’s voice are illuminated by color reproductions to support the perspective that, like Jung, Chagall was among the most prolific and significant religious communicators of the 20th Century.

 

 

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On the Spirit and the Self: The Religious Art of Marc Chagall compliments and extends the scholarship surrounding Chagall’s place in the History of 20th Century Art as a Religious artist. Central to this study is the psychic process of individuation and the ways in which images appear to depict the deeper changes in our collective human existence.

A new perspective on Chagall’s creative output is presented through the application of Jungian theory: Jung identifies a separation between the cultural and historical underpinnings of natal faith, or creed, and the presence of an internal, personal spirituality, or religious attitude.

This theoretical approach helps to define Chagall’s creative connection to his own natal Hasidic faith whilst clarifying the interiority of his religious experiences on a universal level. That creative development may be explored through the visual patterns of sacred transformative imagery is a new approach in Chagallian scholarship, elevating two key concepts: the Chagallian sacred-secular binary, and the Chagallian temenos sites.  

Primary source materials reflecting the Artist’s voice are illuminated by more than seventy colour reproductions to support the perspective that, like Jung, Chagall was among the most prolific and significant religious communicators of the 20th Century.

“Jennifer Swan has captured the amazing expanse of Marc Chagall’s spiritual vision. This is an artist for our divisive times, a bringer of healing.”

-Murray Stein, PhD, author of The Bible as Dream

 

“By allowing the threads that link Chagall, religion and Jung to become illuminated, Jennifer Swan tells us–no, she shows us–something new about all three. Specifically, Swan’s ground-breaking Jungian and post-Jungian exploration of why a Jewish artist was drawn to the image of the Crucifixion serves as an allegory for the self’s encounter with the other that is so central to the crisis of Western culture at this time. The illustrations are breath-taking and underscore the fusion of psyche and body in Chagall’s art.”

-Professor Andrew Samuels, Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, UK

 

“Jennifer Swan has written a comprehensive and insightful book on the work of Marc Chagall. His very name is synonymous with the art of the sacred, and with giving bold new expression to religious images that have grown old and tired in modern times. As formal religions continue to decline in Western societies, the need to give renewed expression to ancient symbols and stories becomes all the more imperative. As Jung put it, these symbols cannot be allowed to die, because they are the stuff of our being, the structures and forms of the human spirit.

“As soon as religious symbols become alien and remote, the artist of genius taps into the spiritual energies that underlie them and regenerates them in forms that speak to the rising generations. This is all the more difficult to achieve, because the visionary artist is primarily addressing a secular audience, even if his works adorn churches and synagogues. Not only does Chagall cross the gap between ancient and modern, but he overcomes the gulf between secular and sacred. He does this by showing that the secular is not a separate realm from the sacred, because the sacred is found at the heart of all experience. The author has written a highly accessible text in which the depth psychological commentary helps to illuminate the challenges of a visionary artist in a secular time.”

-Emeritus Professor David Tacey, La Trobe University, author of The Darkening Spirit: Jung, Spirituality, Religion and Religion as Metaphor

Table of Contents

Introduction 11

Chapter One: Chagall, Judaism, and Religion 27

Chapter Two: Transforming Images 65

Chapter Three: The Alchemical Couple 91

Chapter Four: Chagall and the Image of Christ 125

Chapter Five: Chagall and the Bible 163

Chapter Six: A Religious Artist 203

Appendixes 209

Appendix A: Movement and Motion in Chagall’s Lifespan 209

Appendix B: Chagall’s Stained Glass Commissions 210

Appendix C: The Biblical Message Series 211

List of Color Plates 212

References 219

Acknowledgements 224

About the Author 224

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