10 Shimmering Facts About Marc Chagall’s America Windows

A gift to the Art Institute of Chicago, Marc Chagall created his America Windows, symbolizing his gratitude for the country that saved his life.

Jun 13, 2020By Zoe Mann, BA Art History
marc chagall america windows
Detail of America Windows, Marc Chagall, Art Institute of Chicago, 1977, via Artic


Marc Chagall, a Russian born painter, created this beautiful and blue 6-panel stained glass window. With motifs depicting different art mediums, Chagall gives thanks to the country that allowed him to create art without fear of persecution. Here are 10 facts about these glistening windows.


Marc Chagall’s America Windows Were A Gift To The Art Institute Of Chicago, Where They Still Reside Today

art institute chicago
Entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago. Photo: Education Images/UIG


America Windows were a gift to the museum in 1977. The windows, created in 1976, celebrated America’s bicentennial year. Chagall wanted to give thanks to the museum after they named a gallery in his honor. 


Chagall also dedicated the windows to Richard J. Daley. Daley was mayor of Chicago from 1955 to his death in 1976. An advocate for the arts, Chagall wanted to honor the late mayor.


America Windows Were Installed During A Rise Of Public Art In Chicago

pablo picasso sculpture chicago
The Picasso, Pablo Picasso, 1967, via Statue Stories Chicago


During the 1960s and 70s, Chicago was becoming a cultural and artistic hub, and Chagall wanted to contribute. During this time, many legendary artists were unveiling their large-scale public works including Pablo Picasso. 

Get the latest articles delivered to your inbox

Sign up to our Free Weekly Newsletter


In Chicago’s Daley Plaza, only blocks away from the Art Institute, stands a 50 foot steel sculpture, The Picassoinstalled in 1967. It’s unclear what the statue is, but hey, it must be cool to pass it every morning on the way to work.


The Windows were Moved for Protection

america windows marc chagall
Detail of America Windows, Marc Chagall, 1977, via Singulart Magazine


Today, the windows have a room of its own, right off the museum’s hall dedicated to antiquity. Lit by artificial light, the windows fill the room with a peaceful blue as if the viewer is relaxing in an aquarium. However, this is not Chagall’s initial placing of his windows.


America Windows once overlooked a courtyard in another part of the museum. When the Modern Wing of the Art Institute began construction in 2005, the windows had to move. Curators realized that a dedicated room with artificial light was a way to keep the windows safe from outside forces. 


One can see the windows in its original home in the film, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The scene when Ferris and Sloane share a kiss at the museum takes place in front of Chagall’s windows. 


America Windows Wasn’t The Only Stained-Glass Chagall Created

america windows detail
Stained-glass window in St. Stephens Church, Marc Chagall, 1978- 85


Chagall made stained glass windows for five other countries, including Israel, France, Switzerland, and Germany. 


Chagall turned to the art of stained glass later in life, when he was over 70. He created 9 stained glass windows for St. Stephens Church in Mainz, Germany. The last panel was fitted in 1985, right before Chagall passed away.


Marc Chagall Made Other Artistic Contributions To Chicago

marc chagall four seasons
Grand Mosaic Mural, The Four Season, Marc Chagall, 1973, via WTTW


Three years before the unveiling of his America Windows, Chagall unveiled his Four Seasons, a mosaic housed in the Chase Tower Plaza.


Four Seasons is enormous and includes 250 different colors. It depicts the Chicago skyline and residents floating among the buildings. Chagall describes his Four Seasons“the seasons represent human life, both physical and spiritual, at its different ages.” He wanted to depict not only the image of the hustle and bustle but also the emotions that energy creates.  


Marc Chagall Teamed Up With Artisan Glassmaker, Charles Marq

charles marc glass
Still of Charles Marq, 1961-2, via MoMA


Marc Chagall didn’t create these stained glass windows by himself, but with glassmaker, Charles Marq. First, Chagall would create a sketch. Then, Marq would import the design and successfully cut the glass to completion. 

Chagall also sent Marq to Chicago to take notes on exactly where and when the sunlight would hit certain parts of the Art Institute.  


Still A Painter At Heart, Marc Chagall Painted Directly On The Windows

america windows marc chagall
Detail of America Windows, Marc Chagall, 1977, via Sartle


A painter is always a painter! After Marq finished the panels, they would be brought back to Chagall. He would then paint and make scratches on the glass to officially make the windows a Chagall masterpiece.


Marc Chagall Was A Master With Color

marc chagall i and the village
I and the Village, Marc Chagall, 1911, via MoMA


Marc Chagall once said: “I am blue like Rembrandt was brown.” If Rembrandt’s primary color was brown, Chagall’s was most definitely blue. His America Windows are no exception.


Chagall often used outlandish and vibrant colors that didn’t match reality, creating the dreamscape compositions Chagall was known to paint. Looking at his painting, I and The Village, he depicts a scene of everyday life from his hometown in Vitebsk. Not only is the space disoriented, but also the main figure’s face is green. Chagall was an expert in using color to create dreams from memories. 


Each Panel Is An Ode To Art

america windows detail marc chagall
Detail of America Windows by Marc Chagall, 1977, via Sartle


With his America Windows, Chagall wanted to celebrate American’s freedom to create. Figures are playing music, writing novels, painting still-lives, theatrical performing, and practicing the Jewish faith. Most importantly, the fourth panel depicts an eagle flying over the Statue of Liberty – the ultimate motif of American freedom. 


Marc Chagall’s America Windows Is A Thank You Letter

marc chagall portrait
Photograph of Marc Chagall, via Christies


Marc Chagall was born in 1887 in Vitebsk, Russia. In 1911, he moved to France, where he was creating alongside the best artists the world had to offer. When WWII unleashed its horrors, the Jewish- born artist had no choice but to leave the city he had come to love. Chagall found solace in New York in 1940 and lived in America until the end of the war.


Chagall never forgot the kindness America offered him. He wanted to give back and make a permanent mark on American soil, thirty years after he found protection from the war. 

Author Image

By Zoe MannBA Art HistoryZoë is a graduate student living in Los Angeles studying screenwriting. Originally from New York, she received her B.A. in Art History from Pace University. She has worked in art galleries in Manhattan and the Art Institute of Chicago. In her free time, she loves researching for her historical fiction projects and playing with her cat, Harrison.