Tag Archives: glass

Chagall Windows

Using the medium of stained glass enables the painter to create intense and fresh colors. “When Matisse dies”, Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is.” It was not until 1956, when Chagall was nearly 70 years of age, that he began to design stained-glass windows, first for the church at Assy and then for the Metz Cathedral. One of Chagall’s major contributions to art has been his work with stained glass.

Chagall collaborated with Charles Marq of Atelier Simon in Rheims, France; together they worked on the project, during which time Marq developed a special process for applying color to the glass. This allowed Chagall to use as many as three colors on a single pane, rather than being confined to the traditional technique of separating each colored pane by a lead strip.

French art historian Leymarie writes that in order to illuminate the synagogue at Hebrew University’s Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem both spiritually and physically Chagall decided that the twelve windows, representing the twelve tribes of Israel as blessed by Jacob and Moses in the verses which conclude Genesis and Deuteronomy, were to be filled with stained glass. This is very traditional, the Hurva synagogue had 12 windows with stained glass for the twelve tribes around the dome and the ceiling of the Chabad synagogue was decorated with illustrations of the twelve tribes. Chagall envisaged the windows as “jewels of translucent fire”. Each of the twelve windows is approximately 3.35×2.4 meters, much larger than anything he had done before. They are probably Chagall’s greatest work in the field of stained glass.

Leymarie goes on to describe the spiritual and physical significance of the windows:

The essence of the Jerusalem Windows lies in color, in Chagall’s magical ability to animate material and transform it into light. Words do not have the power to describe Chagall’s color, its spirituality, its singing quality, its dazzling luminosity…

At the dedication ceremony in 1962, Chagall described his personal feelings about the windows:

For me a stained glass window is a transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world. Stained glass has to be serious and passionate. It is something elevating and exhilarating. It has to live through the perception of light. To read the Bible is to perceive a certain light, and the window has to make this obvious through its simplicity and grace… The thoughts have nested in me for many years, since the time when my feet walked on the Holy Land…

You probably notice that there are no photographs of the Chagall Windows accompanying this post. I contacted Hadassah for permission to photograph and was told that I would have to contact an agency in Paris, Société des Auteurs dans les Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, that handles such requests. The ADAGP wants me to pay €7 per image per month, which comes to €84 per year royalties to display one of my photographs on my website. In a quick search for “Chagall Windows” on Google I found 42,700 images that are already online (either ADAGP is bringing in more than €3.5 million per year or these images are not authorized, I’ll let you guess). I suggest that you check some of these images to get some appreciation for Chagall’s stained glass work.

What do Hadassah Ein Karem and Hebrew University Givat Ram have in common? In 1948 the Hadassah medical center and campus of Hebrew University on Mount Scopus built in 1925 were cut off from Israeli held western Jerusalem. For 19 years, a convoy travelled up to Scopus every 2 weeks under Red Cross auspices to exchange people and bring supplies. Consequently, these two institutions are a second hospital and university campus.

Ardon Windows

photo, Mordecai ArdonMordecai Ardon (1896-1992) was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Tuchów, Galicia (then Austria-Hungary, now Poland) but lived a secular life. From 1921 to 1924 Ardon studied at the Bauhaus under Klee, Kandinsky, Feininger and Itten. The influence of the Bauhaus and especially Paul Klee on his artistic development was profound. After graduating from the Bauhaus he studied the painting techniques of the Old Masters, especially Rembrandt and El Greco under Max Doerner in Munich. Combining these seemingly contradictory techniques gives Ardon’s colors their depth and richness.

In 1933 he immigrated to Palestine under the British Mandate. He joined the faculty of the newly formed Bezalel Arts and Crafts School in 1935, five years later he was elected director. Through the fifties he lectured at the Hebrew University on art appreciation and was artistic advisor to the Israel Ministry of Education and Culture.

Professor Ronen, of Tel Aviv University in speaking of Ardon said:

Ardon conceived colour as possessing an absolute aesthetic and spiritual value. He therefore always strove to create the most beautiful colours possible, the deepest blue, the warmest red, the most shining yellow, the most saturated green.

Ardon believed in pure art devoid of any political or social message. He believed that a painting should be appreciated and judged solely by its inherent artistic elements, such as colour, composition and their interplay. He rejected literary, symbolic or, indeed, any other additional meaning attributed to a work of art.

Ardon loved colors and ‘pure art’ but filled his works nevertheless with mystical connotations, Jewish symbolism and enigmatic scenery. He was appalled by the horrors of war and injustice and these themes too seeped into his art. Ardon was an artist who chose to use modern, expressionistic and abstract styles, combined with a classic painting technique which created distinctly unique paintings.

As Ardon expressed in a letter he wrote to Willem Sandberg, Director of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam in 1960:

… an odd thing happened on my palette: something foreign sneaked into the group of cadmiums, ultramarines and viridiums – it was Jerusalem – ascetic, with a sack over its head.

What is Jerusalem doing amongst the bright cadmiums? How can one scratch it off the palette? Sometimes it can be scared away and hidden behind the ivory black. But in vain – the next morning it settles down again in the midst of the cadmiums…

One cannot get away from it. The alien Jerusalem always gives orders: “Thou shalt”, “Thou shalt not”, like a black woodpecker Jerusalem keeps knocking on your bark – Thou, Thou, Thou. Thou and the orphan, Thou and the widow…

In 1963 Ardon retired and finally was able to focus solely on his artwork. During these years, moving between Paris and Jerusalem, he created eight monumental triptychs – the last ‘Hiroshima‘ when he was 92. One of these was executed in stained glass by Charles Marq (who had collaborated with Chagall 20 years earlier) at Atelier Simon in Rheims, France between 1982 and 1984. A set of three large stained-glass windows (measuring (6.5×17 meters) cover one wall in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, dedicated to Isaiah’s vision of eternal peace with visual elements from the Kabbalah.

And many people shall come and say, “Come let us go up to the Mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge among the nations and decide for many peoples and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.   Isaiah 2:3-4

Click on the thumbnail above to display a larger image (these are quite incredible stained glass images).

The left panel depicts the winding roads taken by the nations on their way up to Jerusalem, up to the Mountain of the Lord, each road marked with its own language and alphabet (Latin, Greek, English, French, Arabic).

In the central panel Ardon represents Jerusalem, where the city’s stone walls are represented by the Isaiah Scroll (one of the Dead Sea Scrolls), a spiritual wall combined with the Kabbalistic tree of the sefirot, a symbol of the mystical divine presence, a merging of the earthly and heavenly Jerusalems.

The right panel is the vision come true, guns and shells beaten and transformed into spades which hover above.


Ardon was considered by many to be Israel’s greatest painter.
For images of Ardon’s paintings check out the website http://www.ardon.com/

Phoenician Glass-blowing to Chihuly

Glassblowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Phoenicians in about 50BCE along the Syro-Palestinian coast. The earliest evidence of glassblowing comes from waste from a glass workshop, including fragments of glass tubes, glass rods and tiny blown bottles, that was dumped in a mikveh (ritual bath) in the Jewish Quarter dated to the time of King Herod, from 37 to 4BCE.

During excavations in the Jewish Quarter by Avigad and Geva in the 1970s they discovered in the eastern wall of the Fresco room (F3) in the Palatial Mansion a niche in which was standing a glass jug by the 1st C artist Ennion of Sidon with his name in Greek on the vessel. This rare piece can be seen as part of the glass collection in the Israel museum’s archaeology wing. The buildings, with mosaic floors and frescoes, have been preserved in the Wohl museum and are worth a visit.

If you are interested in glass-making it is also worth checking out the Glass Pavilion at the Eretz Israel museum in Tel Aviv which exhibits ancient glass vessels, representing 3 chapters in the history of glass production:

  1. Pre-blown glass
  2. Blown glass from Roman/Byzantine period (they also have one of Ennion’s works, Blue Jug)
  3. Blown glass of Islamic period

Currently (January 2011) there is a gold-glass panel (table top) with mosaic-glass tiles found in the Byzantine “Birds Mosaic” mansion in Caesarea on display in Israel for the first time. Both museums collect and exhibit contemporary glass art.

Some of the earliest pieces of blown glass have been discovered in Israel and the tradition of glass blowing developed in this area but since then there has been little activity in glass art. Only in the the mid 1970s with Marvin Lipofsky’s visit to Israel was there an opportuity to try glass making. Lipovsky built the first glass furnace for the Ceramics department at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem, the first courses were taught in the late 70s but a formal department with a full curriculum was established only in 1997. The glass furnace built by Lipofsky over 35 years ago is the same furnace in use today and to date Bezalel remains the only university where students can study glass making in Israel.

In 1962 Dale Chihuly, a 21 year old American, came to Israel and volunteered on Kibbutz Lehav north west of Beersheva in the Negev.

I discovered there was more to life than having a good time,” he has said of his kibbutz service. “It’s difficult to explain how this change came about, but it had a lot to do with going out on border patrol during the night with guys my own age who had more responsibility and maturity than adults twice their age in the States.

Chihuly credits this Israel experience as the turning point in his life. He recalls that he began to think of how he could make a contribution to society. He became dedicated to the hard work and long hours necessary to realize his goals. Conceivably, the collective nature of kibbutz life also inspired him to work with a close-knit group of artisans for a common purpose, the creation of art.

Chihuly’s choice of a millennium project was his famous installation at the Tower of David Museum inside Jaffa Gate in 2000, a project that proved to be “history-making in its ambition, its difficulty and its enormous popular success”. The Light of Jerusalem 2000 installation was composed of 10,000 pieces of individually hand-blown glass weighing a total of 42 tons, the various elements of the work were shipped to Israel in 12 40-foot containers from five different countries. I was one of more than a million people who saw his work.

The installation was the fruit of Chihuly’s relationship to Israel and to the history of blown glass. Chihuly was aware that two thousand years ago, some of the oldest glass in the world had been made in Jerusalem and that just before the birth of Jesus, glassblowing was invented. Israeli artists say that Chihuly’s exhibit was an eye-opening experience and defining moment for them so like Israel affected Chihuly, he affected Israel.

Chihuly at Tower of DavidIf you’re interested in glass art check out the Litvak Gallery in Tel Aviv near the Gallery of Art for their current exhibition. They have works by Chihuly as well as other contemporary glass artists. There was a special Chihuly exhibit in January 2011.