Alfred A. Knopf, $40, 582 pp.
“If I were not a Jew...I wouldn’t have been an artist, or I would be a different artist altogether,” Russian-born painter Marc Chagall once declared. It was a paradoxical statement, because Judaism, with its prohibitions against image worship, has no sustained tradition of figurative art. Chagall recalled that, growing up in the isolated Russian town of Vitebsk during the late 1800s, he “never had a single picture, print, or reproduction.... I never had occasion to see...
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