Jewish Artists and the Bible in Twentieth-Century America
Five celebrated American-born, secular Jewish artists—Jack Levine, George Segal, Audrey Flack, Larry Rivers and R.B. Kitaj—found inspiration in the Bible, creating modern midrash. In the five chapters of Jewish Artists and the Bible in Twentieth-Century America, art history professor Samantha Baskind offers a sophisticated, richly illustrated look at each artist’s work and influences. All but Kitaj were Jewishly educated children of immigrants; Kitaj, however, spent his later years studying and interpreting Jewish history and culture. He sought to understand, especially through collage, biblical personalities and current events from Moses to the Holocaust.
Social realist Levine used his father’s and his own images in Planning Solomon’s Temple, oil on masonite, an homage to his father, Shlomo. George Segal’s many plaster sculptures explored the story of Lot and his daughters. His cast bronze statue memorialized murdered Kent State University students in the iconic Abraham and Isaac: In Memory of May 4,1970. Feminist Audrey Flack creates personal works such as a sculpted, contemporary Eve; her collage World War II (Vanitas), color, still life and black and white photos, commemorates the Holocaust. The iconoclastic Larry Rivers’s three-part “History of Matzoh: The Story of the Jews” re-Judaizes historical figures—his image of Michelangelo’s David is circumcised and has a “Jewish” nose.
For more surprising and informative backstories, read Baskind’s study.