Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Body Image

An art historian tackles the thorny matter of Jews and figurative painting

Print Email
Serge Strosberg, Tenderness, 2007(Collection of the artist. All images are from The Human Figure and Jewish Culture (Abbeville Press Publishers, 2009).)

  “Thou shalt not make graven images.” Thus reads the second commandment, which has been widely interpreted by Jews to mean that they are forbidden from depicting the human body. Yet, according to art historian Eliane Strosberg, during the 20th century Jewish artists in Europe and the United States defied that prohibition and almost exclusively painted and sculpted likenesses of themselves and of people they knew. They did so even while non-Jewish peers were jumping into Cubism, Expressionism, Fauvism, and other avant-garde genres. In a new book, The Human Figure and Jewish Culture, Strosberg explores the reasons why these Jewish artists set themselves apart.

Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry speaks with Strosberg about Chaim Soutine, Amedeo Modigliani, Lucien Freud, and others, about renderings of the body in ancient Jewish art, and about the mother as muse.

Print Email

COMMENTING CHARGES
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at letters@tabletmag.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

what a treat – to see not only the artwork
of these wonderful jewish artists in reproduction
but to listen to the voice of the art historian’s
commentary.
thank you.

Richard says:

I think the prohibition on graven images is often misunderstood. Surely it relates to the prohibition of making images of G-d e.g. like the Golden Calf.

amazing portraits of jewish women from ever and ever!

Miroslav says:

Beautiful motive and painting! Bravo!

Wow, this is one of the main core issues of my lifetime in the visual arts! I have found that Jews are nervous about art in general and with figures especially, even when the art is about Jewish subject matter. I believe empathy is the most important thing in drawing or painting fellow human beings.
Thank you for writing and assembling this book. I only wish you know and might have imcluded examples of my figurative art.
Sigmund Abeles

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Body Image

An art historian tackles the thorny matter of Jews and figurative painting

More on Tablet:

Wolf Blitzer Explores His Jewish Roots

By David Meir Grossman — CNN host visits Yad Vashem and Auschwitz for the network’s ‘Roots’ series