Painting: Canopy of Color

Marc Chagall enjoys defying gravity.

In his painting, cows jump over moons, lovers float like lost balloons, roosters and angels hover like Technicolor constellations on the dome of a painterly planetarium. This kind of levitation has been stunning in dozens of paintings and murals but never more suitable than in his new ceiling for the Paris Opéra (see opposite page).

That a modern artist should decorate such a 19th century shrine revolted many traditionalists. To them, the cherubs and rosy clouds of Jules-Eugène Lenepveu's academic fresco were perfectly at home in the Second...

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