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My Name is Asher Lev

Chaim Potok

Chapter 9

Chapter 8

Chapter 9, page 2

page 1 of 2

Aryeh writes about a week after Passover to let his family know that he is all right. He asks Rivkeh to join him in Europe for the summer. Asher stays with his Uncle Yitzchok and goes to Jacob Kahn's studio two to three times per week.

Kahn tells Asher that there are two ways to paint the world—as a geometric design or as a flower. Kahn sees the world organized through geometric structures and this is what he paints, and only rarely will he portray it as beautiful. He sees the world as an awful place and his artwork gives him a way to express his feelings in a lasting, material form. He sees Asher painting a peer who has been picking on him. He chastises Asher for not putting his true hatred into the picture. He tells him to stop being afraid and to use his art to express what he is really feeling.

In mid-July, Kahn takes Asher to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kahn shows Asher many crucifixions in order to show him developments in artistic techniques. Asher dreams of crucifixions that night and tells Jacob the next day that he does not want to see any more of them. Kahn screams at him, telling him that if he wants to "paint Rabbis," he should leave. If he wants to be an artist, he will have to master the history of art, which will include crucifixions and naked women.

One day Kahn brings a model into the studio. Asher is, at first, hesitant to draw her in the nude. Kahn cajoles him a little and, though concerned the Rebbe and his Mashpia would not approve of such paintings, Asher assents. He spends the rest of the day working on painting the human form. Kahn is very pleased with the progress he makes in this limited period. She begins posing for him weekly and his mastery of the nude form continues. Asher begins going to the studio almost daily. He learns a lot about different artistic movements simply by overhearing Kahn talk with other artists.

At the beginning of September, Asher's parents return from Vienna. His father tells him that he is still unhappy with his decision to paint so much. His mother asks Asher if he would mind moving in with Uncle Yitzchok for a year so she could live in Europe with Aryeh. Rivkeh begins pressuring Asher to decide whether it would be all right for her to leave. This weighs on his mind and affects his artwork. He tells her he does not want her to move. Finally, she tells Asher that his father needs her and she will go to live with him.

The classmate whom Asher despises sticks two insulting poems on his desk on successive days. In retaliation, Asher draws scenes of Hell from Michelangelo's The Last Judgement, and he replaces the faces in the original with drawings of this student's face and leaves the pictures for him. The student is suitably shaken and stops bothering Asher.

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