About This Artwork

Marc Chagall
French, born Vitebsk, Russia (present-day Belarus), 1887–1985

White Crucifixion, 1938

Oil on canvas
154.6 x 140 cm (60 7/8 x 55 1/16 in.)
Signed and dated, l.r.: "MArc ChAgAll/ 1938"

Gift of Alfred S. Alschuler, 1946.925

© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

The 1938 painting White Crucifixion represents a critical turning point for the artist Marc Chagall: it was the first of an important series of compositions that feature the image of Christ as a Jewish martyr and dramatically call attention to the persecution and suffering of European Jews in the 1930s. In White Crucifixion, his first and largest work on the subject, Chagall stressed the Jewish identity of Jesus in several ways: he replaced the loincloth with a prayer shawl, his crown of thorns with a headcloth, and the mourning angels that customarily surround him with three biblical patriarchs and a matriarch, clad in traditional Jewish garb. At either side of the cross, Chagall illustrated the devastation of pogroms. On the left, a village is pillaged and burned, forcing refugees to flee by boat and the three bearded figures at bottom left—one of whom clutches a Torah—to escape on foot. On the right, a synagogue and its Torah ark go up in flames, while below a mother comforts her child. By linking the martyred Jesus with the persecuted Jews and the Crucifixion with contemporary events, Chagall’s painting passionately identifies the Nazis with Christ’s tormentors and warns of the moral implications of their actions.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Dayton, Ohio, Art Institute, Religious Art, 1944, no. 6 (ill.).

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Marc Chagall, 1946, no. 46, p. 62 (ill.).

Norman, Oklahoma, University of Okalahoma, Religious Emphasis Week, December 2–6, 1951, p. 4.

Chicago, Renaissance Society, January 6–February 2, 1957.

Hubbard Woods, Illinois, Sacred Heart Parish, February 18, 1957.

Chicago, Renaissance Society, February 15–March 9, 1958.

UNESCO, Marc Chagall; traveled to Hamburg, Kunstverein, February 6–March 22, 1959; Munich, Haus der Kuns, April 7–May 31, 1959; Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, June 14–September 31, 1959.

Chicago, William Findlay Gallery, Exhibition for Benefit of the Art Institute School, October 13–25, 1961.

La Jolla, California, Art Center, Marc Chagall, 75th Annversary Exhibition, October 1–November 11, 1962.

Toyko, National Museum of European Art, Marc Chagall, October 1–November 10, 1963; traveled to Kyoto, Municipal Museum of Art, November 20–December 10, 1963.

Buffalo, New York, Alright-Knox Art Gallery, Religious Art, December 15, 1964–January 10, 1965, no. 122 (ill.).

Bordeaux, France, Musée de Bordeaux, La Peinture Francaise dans les Collections Americaines, May–September, 1966.

Zürich, Kunsthaus, Chagall, May 6, 1967–July 30, 1967.

Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Marc Chagall Exhibition, August–October, 1967.

Paris, Grand Palais, Hommage à Marc Chagall, December 12, 1969–March 8, 1970, no. 83, p. 6 (ill.) p. 108.

Humblebaek, Denmark, Louisiana Museum, Chagall Exhibition, March 21–May 10, 1970.

Chicago, First National Bank of Chicago, Chagall Windows, September 12, 1972.

West Palm Beach, Florida, Norton Gallery, October 7–December 3, 1972.

New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Marc Chagall: Work on Paper, Selected Masterpieces, June 8–September 28, 1975.

New York, Jewish Museum, Jewish Experience in the Art of the Twentieth Century, October 14, 1975–January 25, 1976, no. 72, p. 21 (ill.).

Chicago, Maurice Spertus Museum of Judaica, Chagall in Chicago, April 22–July 1, 1979, no. 3.

Cologne, International Ausstellung Koln 1981, May 30–August 16, 1981.

London, Royal Academy of Arts, Chagall, January 11–March 31, 1985; traveled to Philadelphia, Museum of Art, May 12–July 7, 1985.

London, Barbican Art Gallery, Chagall to Kitaj: Jewish Experience in 20th Century Art, October 10, 1990-January 6, 1991.

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Face à l’histoire, 1933–1996: l’artiste moderne devant l’événement historique, December 19, 1996–April 7, 1997.

Paris, Grand Palais, Chagall: connu et inconnu, March 11–June 23, 2003; traveled to San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art, July 26–November 4, 2003.

Publication History

E. Maritain, Marc Chagall (1943), pp. 28–30.

Dayton Art Institute, “Religious Art,” Liturgical Arts, vol. 12 (May, 1944), p. 64, (ill.)

J. J. Sweeney, Marc Chagall, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1946, cat. no. 46 (ill.) p. 62.

Cashiers D’Art, Annee 27, July 1952, no. 1, pp. 74–75, (ill.).

A. Weisstein, “Iconography of Chagall,” The Kenyon Review, (Winter, 1954), pp. 38–48 (ill.) p. 40.

Art Institute of Chicago Catalogue, 1961, pp. 74–75.

Ownership History

Given by the artist to his daughter, Ida Godey (1916-1994), 1944 [letter from Chagall to Daniel Catton Rich dated Dec. 8, 1946]; sold to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1946.

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