The high verrières of the nave

The Chevallier of Notre-Dame

by Laurent THURNHERR
Art historian
Deputy curator of the Georges de la Tour departmental Museum
and the departmental Museum of salt
General Council of the Moselle

NDP 2010 01 29-8

Self-portrait of Jacques LE CHEVALLIER. Private collection. D.r.

Born in Paris on July 26, 1896, Jacques Le Chevallier evolves rapidly within the artistic world with a father working in the architecture milieu and a mother drawing teacher at the city of Paris.
It is from 1911 to 1915 that he follows the courses of the National School of decorative arts. After his mobilization during the end of the hostilities of the first world war, he integrates as an Illustrator, the young group of artisans of the altar where he meets Louis Barillet, painter decorator and disciple of Maurice Denis.
It is assumed that it integrates in autumn 1920 the Atelier Barillet [there is a lack of certainty here due to the fact that the Barillet workshop Fund was destroyed by its owner] where he assures "the study of the models and the execution of the

tones [private archives of Jacques Le Chevallier, letter of 4 January 1981 in which Le Chevallier explains to the heirs Barillet his role within the workshop]. From this collaboration of the prestigious achievements, true revolutions of the French stained glass of the years 1920-1930, will emerge both in France and abroad [especially in the Cathedral of Luxembourg where in 1937 the Atelier Barillet is in charge of the décor of the entire extension of the building].
A founding member of the Union of modern artists in 1929, he will develop his knowledge of light to the point of being considered the first lighting designer with, in particular, luminaires with innovative design created in complicity with René Koechlin.
In 1948, he contributed to the reorganization of the former sacred art workshops formerly founded by Maurice Denis, now known as the sacred art centre. He takes over the direction and teaches the monumental art of stained glass.
In 1950, Nicolas Untersteller appealed to Jacques Le Chevallier to teach the art of stained glass at the École Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Le Chevallier's work is characterised by a willingness to be at the service of man and to help him live in his time. This idea is evident in his art: whether it is the work painted, drawn, engraved, or even his pedagogical works towards the youngest, Le Chevallier responds to four precepts which, according to him, are peculiar to the modern artist:
- to meet the direct and positive needs of modern life;
- awareness of the necessary response to the imperatives of modern life;
- living art is very exactly true to the appointment given to it by modern life;
- the creative artist is/remains faithful to the appointment offered by our modern life, its disciplines and techniques [private archives Jacques Le Chevallier, notebook of Jacques Le Chevallier, circa 1954-1955].

He died on 23 April 1987 in Fontenay-aux-roses, where he opened his first workshop in 1938 before settling permanently in 1945.

I-the project of 1935

Nave elevation north side-state-18th-version 2

Elevation of the nave, North side, with the verrières of Viollet-le-Duc. Early twentieth century.

Since the restoration of the nineteenth century led by Eugène de Viollet-le-Duc, a set of white verrières in the high Windows of the Cathedral of Paris.

It was in 1935 that Cardinal Verdier, famous for the sites he led in the Paris region, appealed to twelve contemporary artists to replace these glazing [included in this project: Mademoiselle Reyere, Messieurs Le Chevallier, Grüber, Ingrand, Ray, Gaudin, Mazeltier, Barillet, Hébert-Stevens, Rinuy, Louzier, the R.P. Couturier]. The proposed theme is a continuation of the Holy and Holy of France for the lancets and the twelve verses of the Creed for the tympans ' Roses.
His Eminence leaves free to the imagination of the artists. However, the administration of the historical monuments ensures the preservation of a coherence in the creation and then in the presentation of the exhibits. In concert, the artists develop a coherent project, in relation to the supposed luminosity of the building in the middle ages – the General colouring chosen is then blue and red, with a dominant of blue to the North and red to the South – but with resolutely modern features. The will is to bring life to the Cathedral by the contribution of colors until then forgotten if not in the rosettes of the transept.
Jacques Le Chevallier then presents a Bay composed on the left of a figure of St. Marcel slating a dragon, and on the right of St. Genevieve holding the lamp that wants, in the legend, to blow the demon. Above his head is depicted the ship figuratively in the coat of arms of the city of Paris, thus Recalling his status as Patron Saint of the city. The rose located in the upper and central part of the stained-glass window presents the Pascal lamb surrounded by the symbols of the evangelists. In their vicinity is written the phrase: "eternal life, so be it".
The ensemble of the characters is surrounded by decorative motifs peculiar to the 1920-1930 years which are found in the painting of Robert Delaunay.

Presented some time at the Cathedral, all twelve achievements will then be exhibited in the Pontifical Pavilion of the exhibition of 1937. The setting up takes place in 1938 under the hostile writings of conservatives fiercely opposed to the entry of modern art into historical monuments or rather to the modification of a work of art from the past.
Then commits a "stained glass quarrel" [from the title of a newspaper article by two letters by Jacques de Laprade and Achille Carlier] which makes a lot of ink flowing in French and European newspapers.

It is already a year later and following the entry into war of France that the twelve glassworkers have descended in their entirety and seem to be restored to their creators.


II-rethinking the light for man...

In 1952, the historic monuments entrust Jacques Le Chevallier with a new study for the verrières of Notre-Dame de Paris. The demand is then to keep the same iconographic subjects as before the war but, this time, to adapt them by changing somewhat the coloring (colors more vivid than in 1935) but also the size of the characters. The models then show more readable Saints than on the pre-war achievements.
The study of the coloring of the ensemble also evolves. The scale from blue to red is now from West to East. This new work remains in the project state.

In 1961, the same administration again appealed to the artist and asked him for a very innovative work for his destination building. It is now for Le Chevallier to think about a set of colorful glazing for all the high Windows of the nave, the Western Wall of the transept and the stands.

Based on the postulate it gives in one of the numbers of Christian art of 1957, namely that "abstract art, with its inexhaustible richness of shapes and colors [...] is deeply tuned to our sensibility, "Jacques Le Chevallier proposes a project in which the glassworkers" live "and respond with a choice of colors [among the choice of colors, it is to be noted that the blue is inspired by the hue of the middle ages that Jacques Le Chevallier had the right to take on one of the Roses of the transept] seem to vibrate with each other.
On the verrières that the public can still see in the Cathedral, the artist wants to evoke a heavenly Jerusalem in connection with the twentieth century where each soul in solidarity with each other is revealed by the light that crosses it. This is also the subject of one of his reflections given beforehand in the journal Sacred art : "Religious art is intended to touch in its most delicate fibres the man, the man of the street, of the factory, of the Earth. Religious art should be the first to find this necessary human contact. » [Sacred art, August 1948]

This new ensemble is presented to the public on April 26, 1966. In the guests is the cardinal Léon Lommel of Luxembourg. In the aftermath of this celebration, his eminence asks the artist to realize for his Cathedral two glass "in dripping colors" [private archives of Jacques Le Chevallier, letter from Monseigneur Léon Lommel to Jacques Le Chevallier, April 27, 1966] similar to those discovered in Paris and intended to replace the stained glass Windows made by Maréchal de Metz in 1860.



Accomplished artist, Jacques Le Chevallier proves throughout his career and in particular to Notre-Dame de Paris a desire to shed light without betrayal of the lives of his contemporaries and the buildings in which he is called. Light is intended to be useful, playful, able to bring man to a particular situation such as piety in a religious place.
Thus, whether in particular in Notre-Dame de Paris or later at the Cathedral of Luxembourg or at the Liebfrauenkirche in Trier, Jacques Le Chevallier gives without betraying a new expression to the Gothic space.




Twenty-four new stained glass Windows placed in Notre-Dame de Paris

Article from Linda merchant
in the magazine
The arts of 16 June 1965

NDP 2007 12 11-2

Jacques LE CHEVALLIER and Sabine MARCHAND in front of the verrières of the nave. "The arts" – June 16, 1965. Private collection. D.r.

Twenty-four new stained glass Windows have just been laid at Notre-Dame and no one has relaved the event. These are the twelve large verrières of the nave and the twelve small rosettes of the stands.

We were involved in a group of foreigners visiting the Cathedral and were astonished to hear no remark about their modernism, to believe that some confuse them with the other stained glass windows of the 13Th century.

Jacques Le Chevallier, author of this immense work, explains to us how he proceeded: "it was necessary above all to remain discreet, especially regarding the stained glass Windows close to the rosettes of the transept. This explains the progression of the tones, more intense in the stained glass near the organ. »

Always to stay in harmony with the style of the 13Th century rosaces, the Chevallier plays in each of his works on fifteen tones, very frank, the same as those used in the middle ages... except for the purple, secret yet never pierced.

The cutting of these stained glass Windows is varied to the extreme, which gives this very animated appearance that only the abstract way is able to render. From one stained glass window to another, the colors tilt in a very tight rhythm like music by Bach. There are not 10 cm2 that are similar.

The old stained glass windows were 1880. they were pale and monotonous beside the color schemes of Le Chevallier so perfectly studied that they make forget their abstract style, only style that could not shock while a graphic could create false notes. The Chevallier has allowed itself a graphic reproduced in echo in all its large glass and it considers as a tip: a false border!

The work of Le Chevallier – which is first and foremost the work of a painter – does not call the comparison with the old stained glass, it is placed apart and achieves its goal because it succeeds in integrating perfectly with the architecture of Notre-Dame.



Selective Bibliography

Jean-Marie Géron, Albert Moxhet
The contemporary stained glass
Tournai, la renaissance du livre, 2001, 221 p.

Laurent Thurnherr
"The churches of the second reconstruction in the Saulnois"
Sacred art and heritage, Metz, Serpenoise, 2004, p. 80-87

Jean-François Archieri, Cécile Nebout (eds.),
Atelier Louis Barillet, master glassmaker,
Paris, 15 square de Vergennes, 2005, 246 p.

Jean-François Archieri (eds.),
Jacques Le Chevallier, 1896-1987, the modern light,
Paris, Gourcuff Gradenico, 2007, 247p.

Laurent Thurnherr (eds.),
De Mille splinter, Jacques Le Chevallier, 1896-1987, painter glassmaker Designer
Montigny-lès-Metz, Fondation Solange Bertrand – Château de Courcelles, 2007, 18 p.

Laurent Thurnherr, Marie GLOC
Jacques Le Chevallier. Stained glass, Moselle, Germany, Luxembourg
Paths du Patrimoine Moselle, Metz, General Council of the Moselle, 2008, 24 p.

Laurent Thurnherr,
"Of a thousand shards, Jacques Le Chevallier", 50sept n ° 09
Metz, General Council of the Moselle, 2008, p. 50-59





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Light a candle at Notre-Dame