Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
Jesus is hanging on the cross, or floating in the sky all over the second floor of the museum. This is all because of Marc Chagall.
Many critics have called Chagall the preeminent Jewish artist of the 20th century. Yet, Chagall had about a five-year period during the Second World War in which he became utterly obsessed with painting Jesus Christ. Mostly, Chagall painted Crucifixion scenes. A number of these paintings, along with Chagall’s work just before and after the war, can be seen as part of The Jewish Museum’s Chagall: Love, War and Exile show, which runs through February 2, 2014.
Looking at the paintings, one thing is clear right away. The paintings have little to do with Jesus as we usually see him — the central figure in the Christian Passion narrative. Chagall’s Jesus is a Jewish Jesus through and through. In many of the Crucifixion scenes (like The Artist with Yellow Christ, 1938 and Persecution, c. 1941) Jesus’ nether parts are covered with a tallit, a Jewish prayer shawl. In Study for The Yellow Crucifixion(1942), Jesus is wearing tefillin, little black boxes containing verses from the Torah that are wrapped around the head and arm, with black straps going down to the hand.