What painters and artistic movements are mentioned in Chapters 10, 11, and 12 of Chaim Potok's My name is Asher Lev. How do these painters and movements relate to the theme of light? Why is the...

What painters and artistic movements are mentioned in Chapters 10, 11, and 12 of Chaim Potok's My name is Asher Lev. How do these painters and movements relate to the theme of light? Why is the theme of light so prominently featured? 

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 10 of Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev, Asher spends time on the seashore with his friend Jacob Kahn. Certainly at least one artistic movement and several painters are mentioned in this chapter. Due to limited access to the text, below are some ideas to help get you started.

One artistic movement named in Chapter 10 is Abstract Expressionism. Specifically, Jacob tells Asher that he's "too religious to be an Abstract Expressionist." He further explains that paintings either reflect or comment on culture, and Asher is too religious to question his own culture. Abstract Expressionism developed from Surrealism. Surrealism aimed to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality" ("Surrealism"). While earlier art attempted to capture reality, Surrealism attempted to capture the dream-like state and make it reality. Abstract Expressionism is similar to Surrealism, but its difference is that it focuses on "spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation" ("Abstract Expressionism").

Specific artists mentioned in the chapter are Monet, Renoir, Picasso, and Chagall.  Both Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet were French Impressionists, an artistic movement that came before Surrealism. Monet's work especially captured the "effects of light" by showing light radiating off of surfaces like leaves, while Renoir's paintings are known for having very "vibrant light" ("Pierre-Auguste Renoir"; "Claude Monet"). Pablo Ruiz y Picasso is known for exploring many different styles but especially known for helping to found the Cubist movement ("Pablo Picasso"). Cubism set out to represent three-dimensional figures on canvas, and capturing complex three-dimensional figures requires the ability to capture light and shading ("Cubism"). Finally, Marc Chagall was a 20th century Russian-Jewish artist who combined "Cubism, Symbolism, and Fauvism" to create his own style ("Marc Chagall"). Light was also particularly important to Chagall, especially in that light is responsible for the perception of color. Picasso is recorded as once declaring of Chagall that he is "the only painter left who understands what colour really is" ("Marc Chagall").

One main theme in My Name is Asher Lev concerns the importance of the past. The past is something that haunts Asher, day and night. Hence, since artists can't really create the illusion of light without also contrasting light with darkness on the canvas, then the artists' usage of light helps symbolize Asher's obsession with the past, both day and night. A second theme in the novel is self-realization. The realization of any idea can be symbolized by light, especially a light bulb, so, again, we see that the artists' usage of light also symbolizes Asher's own self-realization and self-enlightenment.

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