There is always a start for a School of painting and with Jewish painters the trend was quite academic at the beginning. They first produced portraits and some landscapes and only a few found their inspiration within their community. Because of a religious ban in the Deuteronomy and also a leaning towards a traditional art made of signs and symbols there was little representation of Jewish life until 1860 and most of those artists who did so were gentiles, like Rembrandt some 200 years backward who produced the portraits of several rabbis.
Jozef Israels concentrated on Dutch scenes and painted only a few Judaic scenes whereas Camille Pissarro, who was half-Jewish, never produced works inspired by his origins and joined instead the Impressionist movement before becoming one of its leading figures with Monet, Sisley and Renoir.
Later, Modigliani, an Italian Jew, established himself in Paris and found a style of his own apparently far away from Jewish traditions. The same can be said of Hayden, Kisling, Pascin and Soutine but all these masters who were to become the founders of the School of Paris did remain Jewish in their approach to painting in that sense that they brought about deep transformations regarding the use of colours and the interpretation of life in their works. All the more, they gave a deeper meaning to artistic feelings as most of them did not really get rid of the thread that kept them subconsciously attached to the shtetls (villages) and cities from which they originated. They were mesmerised by the life in Berlin, Vienna or Paris which became their home-towns but still, they usually kept together forming a tight community with other non-Jewish expatriates like Picasso, Juan Gris or Kandinsky. But for the locals, they remained foreigners and only a minority managed to get into the mould of their new existence especially as the turmoil of the Second World War came as a reminder that being a Jew was not an easy status to have in the whole of Europe.
Marc Chagall was not different from them though he adopted a different approach in his works. Much marked by his Jewish roots, he painted scenes reminiscent of his younger days in the shtetl and throughout his career, his inspiration was almost entirely anchored to the Bible.