The Illuminated Crowd of Washington, D.C.

Sometimes the little things are enough to make you feel at home. In my case recently, it was a familiar piece of street art that reminded me of a place I used to call home, right here in my new home of Washington, D.C. I lived in different cities throughout my life, but only three (Paris, Montreal and D.C.) truly felt like a place I belonged in and knew. They felt like home. And one of my very first memory in one of these homes, Montreal, involves a famous statue: the Illuminated Crowd. I’m pretty sure one of the very first picture I ever took in Montreal involved the Raymond Mason sculpture (and probably my drunken SSMU frosh team trying to check off items from a scavenger hunt list during my first week at McGill University.) It was such a familiar sight for so many years…

The Illuminated Crowd by Raymon Mason on McGill Avenue in Montreal, QC

On the other hand, the British sculptor’s artwork at the Tuileries Garden wasn’t around when I was growing up in Paris. It was installed in 2000 and I only paid close attention to it because it had elements of the Illuminated Crowd, the tightly packed people for one, but at the same time was so different in the material used, the message and the details. I still like looking at it when I’m visiting my parents because it’s almost like an old friend you’re still getting to know better.

La Foule by Raymond Mason in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris

But until recently I had never noticed the pair of Raymond Mason bas-reliefs at the Four Seasons Hotel here in D.C. (actually, there’s also another sculpture by Raymond Mason in the entrance of the hotel called “The Departure of Fruits and Vegetables from the Heart of Paris”.) The similarity to The Illuminated Crowd is unmistakable, particularly the man pointing to the sky and the empty looks of the tightly packed men and women. I guess I had just never seen it before or paid enough attention. 

The bottom bas relief of The Illuminated Crowd at the Four Seasons
in Georgetown is a cast made for the original Montreal statue.

I loved finding a little something familiar, a little something that ties my three homes together. It makes my homes feel a little more connected and similar… and perhaps nobody else can understand that, but I just like being able to say that I’ve never lived in a city that didn’t have a Raymond Mason sculpture…  

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