Diasaféo: Illustration as Envisioning or Interpretation of the Holy Book in the Works of Marc Chagall and Robert Crumb
“I saw the Bible, I dreamed it. Since childhood, the Bible captivated me. For me it has always been and still is now the greatest source of poetry of all time” used to say Marc Chagall to Franz Meyer. Chagall was commissioned in 1930 to draw a series of illustrations of the Bible, on which occasion he explores similar cultural products and makes some of the most famous drawings of the sacred book. Starting from Chagall’s statement with its obvious applicability on the Christian world and considering the Bible is one of the most read books, I will try to answer some specific questions: what is the link between illustration and the sacred text? What role has the illustration in the representation of the sacred text? Which would be some relevant works of art to the history of biblical illustrations? How do these stories re-appear in illustrations in contemporary times?
The verb diasaféo (to clarify, to present with explanations, to clarify) appears in the Greek version of the Bible and is present only once in the Old Testament, when Moses clarifies at his turn the laws on Mount Sinai. He repeats it, but he also clarifies, explains them. Not only semblance, but also interpretation. Likewise, illustrations made for the biblical text can be only appearances or they can they can explain the text.
Through two case studies which are highlights in the history of art and that of illustration (painter Marc Chagall and comics artist Robert Crumb) I will try to determine which is the relation between text and illustration. The point of view upon the artworks will be the one stating that the Bible is primarily a mythology, but it is that particular mythology presented by the book that was prevalent in the world of illustration over time in various media. There is on the one hand the text and on the other’s its representation.
Bible, illustration, painting, mythology, comics.