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Chagall windows back on display at Art Institute

The famous blue stained-glass windows by artist Marc Chagall go back up for public viewing at the Art Institute of Chicago on Monday.

The Art Institute took down the windows five years ago to protect them from vibrations from construction of the Modern Wing.

The head of the Department of European Painting and Sculpture, Douglas Druick, says when they got the windows down, they noticed they needed cleaning. But first, conservators brought the windows back to the lab to make sure they were stable enough to treat. They also did research and consulted experts about how the windows were made.

Druick says visitors are going to notice a big difference.

“What they're going to see is a range of color and a depth of brilliance of color unlike they were able to see for many, many years,” Druick says. “It's like cataracts have been removed from the Chagall windows and we can see them clearly.”

He says many more shades of blue are visible. So are the figures that celebrate religious and cultural freedom in the United States.

The windows were up in a gallery that opened to a courtyard for many years, illuminated by natural light. Druick says that meant visitors couldn’t see much at night or on dim days.

Now they’re up in a new smaller gallery lit by artificial light that looks natural. The windows are framed differently, and that, curators say, combined with the smaller space, means the windows will glow through the room.

Chagall’s a Russian-born artist who spent much of his life in France. Druick describes him as one of the pioneers of modernism, known for his expressive color and his poetic use of folkloric and religious imagery.

In the early 1970s, Chagall came to Chicago to work on his mosaic near Chase Tower. The Art Institute says there was so much enthusiasm for that work, Chagall offered to create the windows for the Art Institute to commemorate the U.S. bicentennial. He dedicated them to Mayor Richard J. Daley for his support of public art.

The stained-glass panels were made famous in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and they remain one of the museum’s most popular attractions. Since they’ve been off display, Druick says visitors ask almost daily when they’ll go back up.

Members get a sneak peek at the windows starting tomorrow. The general public can see them again starting on Monday.

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