Sunday, October 6, 2013

Chagall and Matisse Close to Home

Yesterday I took my mother-in-law who is visiting from Ohio to the Union Church of Pocantico Hills to see the stained glass windows.  I've wanted to go for years, but never made the time.   The church's literature says "the windows represent the last completed work of Henri Matisse and the only cycle of Chagall church windows in America."  Wow...

The windows were commissioned by members of the Rockefeller family and they are just glorious.  The large window at the back of the church was inspired by the Biblical parable of the Good Samaritan and was meant as a tribute to the life of John D. Rockefeller, Jr by his children.  Seen from the outside, you only get a hint of the fabulous work inside.

Chagall's stained glass window at the Union Church in Pocantico Hills.  The glass is protected from the elements, flying storm debris and human error (such as the neighborhood boy who once shot a BB gun pellet through the window) by an extra protective glass

The Good Samaritan, Marc Chagall, 1964
Seen from within, the glass is absolutely beautiful. I was just itching to take a picture, but photos weren't allowed.  Instead, I have this scan of a postcard of the large window, which I don't believe adequately shows the glow of the late afternoon fall sunlight.

The windows along the sanctuary are all Chagall's interpretations of select Biblical verses illustrating the lives of prophets.  I particularly liked the window depicting the prophet Jeremiah, not so much for the verse (Lamentations 3:1-9), but for the colors and the emotion I felt it conveyed.

Jeremiah, Marc Chagall, 1966
The elderly gentleman who was giving a tour of the church said that he liked to think that this window showed a world all upside down, with the sky below and the earth above.  I hadn't noticed that to start, but I like to think that he's right.  We'll never really know, however, because Chagall is quoted as saying, "Let people see in them [the windows] whatever hidden meaning they imagine."

Chagall created all the windows in the Atelier Jacques Simon in Reims, France. He first drew a life-size rendering of each window and then artisans fabricated the glass according to this drawing.  At the end of the process, Chagall painted the images onto the glass.  Once complete, the windows were dismantled and reassembled in the church.

The Rose Window, Henri Matisse
Matisse's window is above the altar.  He utilized his technique of paper cut-out shapes to create the design.  In the absence of pictures, I'm sharing the image from the brochure which I think shows the depth of the glass pretty well.  At the time, Matisse wrote this was an enjoyable challenge, "to express myself in a defined and limited space and to harmonize my composition, not only with the actual framework, but also with the atmosphere of the chapel."  Matisse's window was fabricated by the Atelier Hebert-Stevens, Paul Bony in Paris. 

This little side trip reminds me of all the opportunities to see art that I have access to in the area.  Art trips don't need to be time-consuming to be wonderful and worthwhile.  I just need to go.  What would be best would be to make plans and write them in my calendar.  I'll have no excuse then.   Do you regularly schedule time for art trips?

1 comment:

Natalya Aikens said...

OK let's make some plans!!