Silence. There is an overwhelming silence that dominates the Isidor Kaufmann masterpiece, Rabbi with Young Student (catalogue #93) offered for sale at the Sotheby’s December 19th auction. Kaufmann’s most engaging paintings for me are the deeply psychological portraits, usually of Hasidic men, young women and youths.
Jewish Art has always been burdened by Jewish history. Unlike most other cultural traditions, the vicissitudes of fate have been particularly harsh and have frustrated any attempt to establish a long-standing cultural tradition for the Jewish people in their far-flung habitations. Frequently just as an art form began to take hold, an expulsion, pogrom, or oppressive decree would disrupt Jewish life and all chance of stability.
Israeli Picture Book
Autour du Coq Rouge (Around the Red Rooster), painted in 1982 by aninety-five year old Marc Chagall (1887-1985), the most famous Jewish artist of the twentieth century, puzzles us with its mysterious loveliness and grace. The Chagall bursts upon us in a passionate torrent, scintillating our visual sensibilities with pinks, hot violets and lush greens that are only partially soothed by the flickering blues of distant skies. The absurdly shaped animals in the center are guarded by three hesitant figures on the left and a gigantic figure with a rooster on the right. Behind him are a mother and child who seem to levitate above the horizon. The prone youth in the foreground feeding a little white goat serves as a horizontal balance to the unusual and evocative Provencal landscape above.