On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the Clemens Sels Museum Neuss is showing three exhibitions in the Graphic Cabinet in 2017 that deal with religious themes surrounding Luther and the Reformation. The first was an exhibition on famous Bible illustrations. Luther, who is still known today for his critical attitude towards images, explicitly approved of Bible illustration. For it is not to be classified as "idolatry," but rather contributes to "memory and better understanding." He was aware that the visual arts could be an effective means of communicating and explaining the Christian faith to the people of his time, who were still predominantly illiterate. The importance he attached to the pictorial representation of biblical stories is demonstrated by the fact that he had his first edition of the New Testament, published in 1522, provided with illustrations by Lukas Cranach. However, since the Old Testament is highly significant not only for Christianity but also for Judaism, the exhibition unites visual ideas of both religions.
The exhibition featured works by Marc Chagall, Walter Crane, Gustave Doré and Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
Marc Chagall is one of the great exceptional artistic talents of the 20th century. In 1930, Parisian art dealer and publisher Ambroise Vollard commissioned Chagall to create etchings as Bible illustrations. Vollard's sudden death in 1939 and World War II interrupted the project. However, thanks to Chagall's continued interest in illustrating the Bible and the publisher Tériade, the Bible, with 105 etchings by Chagall, was published in two volumes in 1956. In his etchings, he depicts scenes and personalities from the Old Testament in a very personal way, touching through their vivid immediacy.
In 1960, Tériade again published works by Chagall in his magazine "Verve" under the title "Dessins pour la Bibel".
These color lithographs prove Chagall's special ability to internalize the contents, which can be demonstrated once again very well by his saying: "I did not read the Bible, I dreamed it".