Marc Chagall's White Crucifixion: An Enduring Work of Political Art

  • Ariel M Kravitz


The works of Marc Chagall, a prominent and prolific Jewish artist, are among the most significant and recognizable creations to have emerged during the 20th century. The White Crucifixion was Chagall’s passionate response to the escalating atrocities by the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party that resulted in Kristallnacht. This paper examines the early life of the artist in Czarist Russia amidst historical persecution and anti-Semitism, as well as the social and political milieu in which the White Crucifixion was created. The painting’s unique combination of Christian and Jewish imagery, with an illuminated and crucified “Jewish Jesus” at the focal point, and surrounded by scenes depicting Jewish suffering at the hands of the Nazis is explored in detail. The paper demonstrates that the distinctive religious and cultural experiences of Marc Chagall provided the palate from which the plight of the Jews was immortalized on canvas and which expressed his outrage. Condemning the world for their silence and imploring them to act in the face of inhumanity, the White Crucifixion remains an enduring work of political art whose message is as applicable today as it was in 1938.

Author Biography

Ariel M Kravitz
Ariel Kravitz is currently a junior at Vanderbilt University majoring in Chemistry. Her hometown is Manhasset Hills, a town situated on the north shore of Long Island, NY. Upon graduation, she will be attending Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (Class of 2014) where she plans to specialize in surgery. She is an ardent animal welfare advocate and plans to continue this work throughout her life. The impetus for this paper came from her beloved Poppi, whose zest for life and courage to survive in the face of horrific atrocities will forever inspire and guide her through her life’s journey, both as a Jew and as a member of humanity.
How to Cite
KRAVITZ, Ariel M. Marc Chagall's White Crucifixion: An Enduring Work of Political Art. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, [S.l.], v. 5, july 2009. ISSN 1555-788X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 20 aug. 2019. doi:
Humanities and Social Sciences


Political Art