Above: The Ten Trials of Abraham. Below: Isaac & Rivka; Rebbe’s Maid; Mrs. Ohn ben Peles.


Richard McBee has been painting enduring images from the Bible, Midrash, and all corners of Jewish history for over forty years. A longtime writer, critic, and curator, and a major force in the Jewish art world, his paintings themselves — expressive depictions that elevate ancient narrative into contemporary dreamscapes — are intricate works that focus on the enduring mythological transcendence of Jewish narrative. His most recent work has focused on the role of women in Biblical literature

Of the works shown here, “Rebbi’s Maid” takes its visual cue from Edward Hopper and its narrative cue from Ketubot 104a, in which a rabbi’s maid distracted his students’ prayers so that the rabbi could pass from this earth and join angels in eternal rest. “Mrs. Ohn ben Peles,” emerging from Numbers 16:1 and Sanhedrin 109b–110a, depicts the lengths Ohn ben Peles’s wife took to protect him so that he would not be summoned to join Korach’s rebellion against Moses. “Isaac & Rivka” derives from the account in Genesis 26:6-8, in which Isaac pretends Rebecca is his sister and not his wife, so as to avoid being killed for her. Finally, “The Ten Trials of Abraham” consists of two doors, each adorned with five 14" x 11" oil paintings depicting the ten trials Abraham faced — from the pain of exile to the death of his wife Sarah — according to various passages of Jewish literature. Lushly illustrated in reds, yellows, and grays, the images capture not only the permanence of Jewish folklore, but the sensitivity and insight of an artist at the peak of his expressive power.

Much more of Richard’s artwork and reviews can be seen at