I recently took a trip to France, and, as one of the designers for Scottish Stained Glass, I had a desire to find some beautiful stained glass pieces throughout the country. With so many churches to explore, I knew I would not be disappointed. The pieces I discovered were unlike anything I have seen in the United States. France has so much history and is so old in comparison to our country that the stained glass still being intact seemed to be an art form of its own.
The cathedral in Reims, France held some of my favorite stained glass pieces. The Notre-Dame Cathedral of Reims is where most of the French kings were coroneted. The church stained glass varied from antique, restored, and traditional, to modern and abstract pieces. My favorite discoveries from exploring this church, however, were the Chagall stained glass pieces that were in the axial chapel. Though these pieces are not nearly as old as some of the other church stained glass, the project took six years to complete, and the three stained glass windows were installed in 1974.
To begin the project, Chagall immersed himself in the medieval stained glass that already existed in the space. Both he and his partner, Charles Marq, worked to recreate the color schemes that were abundant in the other stained glass pieces throughout Notre Dame Cathedral of Reims, the prominent color being an ancient blue. The windows depict a variety of biblical scenes. The themes include the history of Abraham, the Tree of Jesse, and other stories from both the Old and New Testaments. Marc Chagall successfully created church stained glass that had a flowing composition and a modern feel while simultaneously complimenting (through color harmony) the medieval stained glass pieces that decorate the rest of the church.
Marc Chagall is easily on of my favorite stained glass artists and, actually, may be one of my favorite artists in general. Known as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, he worked in many mediums including painting, fine prints, illustrations, ceramics, and (of course) stained glass. Chagall was able to embrace stained glass as a medium. He understood and embraced that the weather, the viewer’s perspective, and the lighting would constantly be changing the stained glass, and by embracing those elements he was able to create beautiful, complex compositions and colors unlike any other stained glass artist before him. Besides having his stained glass prominently displayed in the Reims Cathedral, he also has stained glass pieces in many other churches and buildings including St. Stephen’s Church in Germany, All Saints’ Church in the UK, the United Nations Building, and the Jerusalem Windows in the synagogue of the Haddasah Medical Center.