Tom LaPorte

Every Word Counts

Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall ranks among the Masters in the twentieth century world of art. Under the guidance of Parisian art director, Ambrose Vollard, Chagall compiled a suite of drawings inspired from the Hebrew Bible. Totaling one hundred forty-four works, the series was not completed until 1959. Vollard's death and World War I set the project back significantly. Ultimately, Verve, a French art publication company presented Chagall’s work in a double issue the collection in 1960.

I learned about this impressive concept long before I saw the full volume of images. Chagall's work with Biblical characters and stories fascinated me. Each piece in the series simply has a name, often directly from the Scripture, and the citation below Chagall's unique artistic interpretation. In the pages to follow I have included the full text (King James Version) chapter and verse from the Hebrew Bible along with an exegetical rendering of the text to accompany Chagall's artwork. All commentary deals with words of the Hebrew Bible, not Chagall's drawings.

 My goal is not an attempt to tie the picture to the prescribed reading or to poetically superimpose commentary to create art with words. More simply the interpretation of the Biblical selections is intended to cast a contemporary glance on the ancient words held as sacred by so many of the world's people of faith. These are tempered with Biblical scholarship and literary criticism, but are not meant to be formal commentaries, more so the comments serve personal reflections.

Click here to for the rendering of Nehemiah, Ruth,  Hagar in the Desert or Psalm 1.