Short-listed for the Art and Christian Enquiry/Mercers' International Book Award 2009: 'a book which makes an outstanding contribution to the dialogue between religious faith and the visual arts'.
What does modern Jewish art look like? Where many scholars, critics, and curators have gone searching for the essence of Jewish art in Biblical illustrations and other traditional subjects, Rosen sets out to discover Jewishness in unlikely places. How, he asks, have modern Jewish painters explored their Jewish identity using an artistic past which is – by and large – non-Jewish?
In this new book we encounter some of the great works of Western art history through Jewish eyes. We see Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece re-imagined by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), traces of Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca in Philip Guston (1913-1980), and images by Diego Velázquez and Paul Cézanne studiously reworked by R.B. Kitaj (1932-2007). This highly comparative study draws on theological, philosophical and literary sources from Franz Rosenzweig to Franz Kafka and Philip Roth. Rosen deepens our understanding not only of Chagall, Guston, and Kitaj but also of how art might serve as a key resource for rethinking such fundamental Jewish concepts as family, tradition, and homeland.
Aaron Rosen earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge. He has been a visiting scholar at the University of California Berkeley and a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University. He is currently the Albert and Rachel Lehmann Junior Research Fellow in Jewish History and Culture at the University of Oxford.
‘Rosen's effort to identify and elucidate the Jewish concerns of these three very different artists is penetrating and his analysis of the works in question is consistently insightful. Though the exact nature of Jewish art remains slippery, Rosen’s book is a worthy investigation of the ways in which the most evidently Jewish art can borrow from the least Jewish sources, and the ways in which less apparently Jewish art can have unexpected Jewish resonances.’ — Ezra Glinter, Zeek at Jewcy July 21, 2009
‘Bypassing past scholars, critics, and curators who have sought the quintessential nature of Jewish art... but failed to come up with the answer, Rosen is your man.’ — The Jewish Telegraph November 20, 2009, p. 29)
‘For lovers of American art, Jewish art, history or theology, Dr Rosen has approached the subject comprehensively... Making an exceptional input to the exchange of ideas and channel of communication between religion and the fine arts, Dr Rosen processes how any type of Jewish art may serve deep-seated Jewish ideas of family, tradition, and homeland... Dr Rosen communicates his ideas succinctly, in an accessible manner.’ — The American December, 2009, p. 35)
‘Unashamedly scholarly yet written in a style that is refreshingly accessible, achieving a rare and satisfying balance between detailed, even minute, analyses of speciﬁc works of art and a broader sense of purpose, underpinned by an intimate knowledge of a wide range of theological and philosophical texts.... Imagining Jewish Art concludes with an excellent and immensely thought-provoking chapter entitled ‘Brushes with the Past’, suggestive of enough new avenues of intellectual enquiry to fuel several more volumes. While other scholars (both Jewish and non-Jewish) may indeed take up some of these challenges, I have little doubt that we shall be hearing more of Aaron Rosen in the future.’ — Monica Bohm-Duchen, Art & Christianity 62, Summer 2010, 14
‘Towards the end of his book, Rosen explains that his intention has been to illustrate 'something of the unique, productive tensions which can arise when the themes and symbols in works by non-Jewish artists are made to "speak Jewish"' (106). In this he is entirely successful. The reader learns a good deal about the three artists, and can see in practice how a Jewish artist, interested in questions of Jewish history and identity, may engage the art-historical tradition in producing a new kind of visual imagery.’ — Janet Wolff, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 9.3, 2010, 437-39
‘A probing and accessible interdisciplinary contribution to the field of modern Jewish art.’ — Samantha Baskind, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 29.4, Summer 2011, 177-79
‘The book is at its strongest when it employs formal comparisons to demonstrate the close visual conversations with European ‘Masters’ of religious art (such as Grü̈newald, Uccello and della Francesca) that Chagall, Guston and Kitaj each engage in.’ — Alana M. Vincent, Literature and Theology 27.1 (March 2013), 116
Rosen, Aaron, Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters in Chagall, Guston, and Kitaj, Studies In Comparative Literature, 16 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2009)
First footnote reference:35 Aaron Rosen, Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters in Chagall, Guston, and Kitaj, Studies In Comparative Literature, 16 (Cambridge: Legenda, 2009), p. 21.