Stained Glass Windows, Saint Stephan’s Church, Marc Chagall. Mainz, Germany.
The experience is aesthetically arresting; blue light filtering through the stained glass bathes the church’s interior. The scene’s subject matter is biblical in origin—Adam and Eve, Moses, angels, scenes from the natural word. However the style is thoroughly modern with the unmistakeable flourish of Chagall—colorful, whimsical, mystical.
After the atrocities of WWII, Chagall, a Jew, spent three years considering whether to work with this Catholic church in Germany. He finally agreed sensing an opportunity for reconciliation. The scenes he so beautifully portrays are made all the more poignant in the context of the suffering and hope that went into their creation.
Wheatfield with Crows, Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Standing in front of this work, thought by may to be his last, Van Gogh’s brilliance—and madness—are undeniable. A brooding sky of dark blue and black contrasts with the bright yellow field; a pathway leads into the distance. Black birds hovering above provide a sense of movement and foreboding. The visuals are stunning, but the real power of this piece comes from contemplating the man behind the masterpiece and the final glimpse we get into his psyche.
Holocaust Memorial, Peter Eisenman. Berlin, Germany.
This outdoor monument is a must-do experience when in Berlin. The concept is simple: a large field of raised rectangular concrete columns rise upward, creating a criss-crossing network of pathways. As one walks towards the center of the exhibit the floor slopes downward while the columns extend upward until one is lost in a forest of concrete. Reminiscent of tombs, the countless columns create a tangible reminder of the scale of this tragedy. Walking through these a visceral sense of isolation results, first physical and then emotional. This is an extremely well designed installation, creating ample opportunity for one to reflect on this most horrendous chapter of Europe’s history.
Pieta, Michelangelo. Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy.
In this exquisite sculpture Michelangelo breaks from convention, portraying a youthful, beautiful Mary—instead of the usual, more sedate version. While there are countless sculptures depicting this scene of Mary and Jesus, Michelangelo’s rendition is particularly poignant. Undoubtedly his raw talent is a factor, as was Michelangelo’s own hope to depict a “religious vision of abandonment and a serene face of the son.” We’re not the only ones to be moved by this piece. In 1972 a mentally disturbed archeologist chipped off Mary’s nose. The fragment was never found so the repair was made using a piece of marble taken from Mary’s back. The sculpture now rests behind bullet-proof glass.
What pieces of art have made an impression on you? We’d love to hear about your favorites!