Abraham and Isaac

Completed: September, 1976
Dimensions: 12” x 35 5/8”
Edition size: 120
Media: Serigraph
Colors printed: 40


Artist’s Notes

This painting/serigraph of Abraham and Isaac is the culmination of many influences on my art. My interest in music led me to Benjamin Britten’s vocal music. Britten had set to music the Chester Miracle Play of Abraham and Isaac (opus 51). This moved me to make sketches and develop the drawings in 1974 for the narrative painting using the techniques of crayon sgraffito painting.

Abraham and Isaac (Crayon sgraffito painting, 1974)
Abraham and Isaac (Crayon sgraffito painting, 1974)

In 1976, I worked with Howard Schwartz, illustrating The Midrashim: Collected Jewish Parables. During that year, London was celebrating Islamic art and there were many exhibitions of miniatures which I visited frequently. By fortune, I arrived also in Paris where there was a large exhibition of Byzantine paintings from Bulgaria. I returned often to study the icons. Inspired by these various art traditions and techniques, I started to rework the drawings. These influences were a catalyst, helping me to move away from the flat perspective of my early work and to embellish and to incorporate shading and color gradation in my figures and landscapes.

While in London, I began working at Advanced Graphic Studio, a workshop for printing serigraph editions. My first project was to publish the serigraph of Abraham and Isaac, incorporating these new drawings and visual ideas. I stayed at the studio for five months, drawing all the stencils needed for the forty colors printed to complete the edition in 1976.

Twenty years later, in 1994, I returned to the story to develop it further, seeing more possibilities with the story and pictorial imagery. I added story panels and enlarged the picture with arches and scenes of working the land through the different seasons, typical of a medieval Book of the Hours. As a way of unifying the many scenes, there are common horizon lines on each of the three levels. The hills and landscape from the panels are connected, giving the viewer a sense of one sweeping picture. As in the Islamic miniatures, figures are not confined to the borders of the individual panels. Examples are figures of the angels entering from outside the frames, also the buildings that extend outside their border.
As a way of dealing with the ethical dilemmas which I found in the story, I incorporated, along with my narrative text, words from the Gospel of Matthew 27: 45.

Abraham and Isaac (Painting on top of a serigraph, 1994)