Chagall’s The Eiffel Tower put on display in National Gallery

Marc Chagall. The Eiffel Tower, 1929. Oil on canvas, 100 x 81.8 cm. National Gallery of Canada. Photo: NGC

The public will get a chance to see Marc Chagall’s The Eiffel Tower starting on  Saturday, the National Gallery of Canada has announced. The painting will be on view in the European galleries on the second floor alongside Chagall’s earlier painting Memories of Childhood.

Both paintings will remain on view until winter 2019 when a regularly scheduled maintenance program gets underway. The Gallery rotates works in the collection on a regular basis to re-invigorate a display or to accommodate works that are on loan to exhibitions at other institutions.

The Eiffel Tower will be shown at the Gallery from time to time going forward, as will Chagall’s Memories of Childhood.

The painting was the subject of a massive public controversy when it was out up for auction. The money that would have been raised from its sale would have  been used to buy a painting by the important French painter Jacques-Louis David called St. Jerome Hears the Trumpet of the Last Judgment, in a bid to keep it in Canada. It was being offered for sale by the archdiocese of Quebec. The Quebec government intervened and said the painting was part of the province’s heritage and could not leave its borders without permission.

The board of trustees of the gallery was left with little choice but to pull the Chagall from the auction house and return it to Ottawa. The costs assumed by this decision were covered by a donor. But the damage was done. The gallery was at the centre of a media storm that went on for weeks and seemed to take the officials of the institution by surprise with its intensity.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.