By DAVID LYLE JEFFREY
Sometimes we think of modernism in art as a period of great liberation from the constraints of the past, of the triumphant emergence to dominance of secularism and the demise of religion. This cliché overlooks, of course, the unprecedented violence of the 20th century, the horrible deaths of score of millions of people just because of their religious identity—Jews in the Holocaust and Christian martyrs all over the globe. Response to real evil is exceedingly various; many an artist has been driven to outrage or despair, others to self-indulgence and escapism. The recent exhibition at Baylor University of Georges Rouault’s Miserere et Guerre series and Marc Chagall’s Bible series (both made possible through a gracious loan of collections by the Mark Foster Family Foundation) offered an opportunity to reflect on an aspect of modernity so obtrusive that no artist concerned for truth can entirely overlook it: the monstrous fact of human suffering on such a scale.