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Abraham Rattner

Birds Bathing

Because the Second Commandment prohibits the creation of graven images, devout Jewish artists are somewhat restricted when it comes to expressing their faith through overt subject matter. In normal conditions this prohibition is not a problem but an intellectual challenge. Yet, during the Holocaust and for years after, many Jewish artists found it difficult to articulate the profundity of their shared trauma.

Abraham Rattner sought to affirm the connection between God and his people throughout his long career. In the years during and immediately following World War II, he often employed biblical imagery of death and resurrection. More frequently, he relied upon symbolism to express his belief in the resiliency of the Jewish people in light of the recent atrocities. In Birds Bathing, Rattner’s optimism is conveyed through jewel-toned color and spontaneous, joyful line. The species of bird is somewhat ambiguous, though the distinctive breast coloration and gray wings suggest mourning doves. Given Rattner’s penchant for metaphor, the doves may reference the Song of Songs, in which God describes his bride, the Jewish people, as a dove.

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