Hiding the Chagall

America became eons more art-rich recently when a private donor in Georgetown bequeathed a Chagall work to the National Gallery of Art. Situated under a tree in the far northwest section of the NGA’s sculpture garden, the piece is at once enormous, yet somehow also tucked away. While I think the curators just didn’t have any other space for it (the garden is chock full with other enormous installations by Miro and Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser) the small hidden garden in which it sits allows you to gaze at it without the sun or too many people interrupting.

The enormous 10 x 17 rectangular block is composed of thousands of mosaic tiles that reveal an ethereal landscape. Titled Orphee, the piece was installed in 1969 at the home of Evelyn and John Nef, who also acquired 30 other Chagall works.

Designed by Chagall, the mosaics were laid by Lino Milano, who also did work for Braque and Picasso.

Later in life, Chagall turned to the decorative arts, including mosaic and and tapestry. I remember seeing some of his stained glass windows at a small cathedral in Switzerland, one of many he completed at churches and civic spaces across Europe, Israel, and the US.

NGA’s curators have now offered you one more stellar reason to check out Jazz In The Garden on Friday nights!


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