Legacy and Stewardship

Nef Residence

Washington, D.C. • Completed 1996


Oehme, van Sweden & Associates
Wolfgang Oehme
James van Sweden

For art patrons John and Evelyn Nef, the firm created a showcase for Orphée, a 10-by-17-foot mosaic, which was a wedding gift from artist Marc Chagall to the Nefs. The project, which commenced in 1977, was refined several times by van Sweden, who also designed the paving and furniture. The goal was to provide a lush backdrop without detracting from the mosaic’s grandeur. In 2009, after Evelyn Nef’s death, the mosaic was donated to the National Gallery of Art and is now in the gallery’s Sculpture Garden. While the mosaic has been preserved, the garden for which it was created, and with which it had a unique relationship, is gone.


[The Nef’s Garden] reflects their history of deep friendship with the Chagalls, a rich intellectual life, and love of art. [Mrs. Nef said:] ‘My husband [John] was a professor at the University of Chicago at the time.  John invited Chagall to take part in a symposium – and they found they had friends in common.  The Chagalls stayed for a time with us. He found that he could buy art supplies at Woolworth’s; all the neighbors were thrilled with him.’[1]

James van Sweden


Learn More

Architecture and the Garden, Bold Romantic Gardens and Process Architecture No. 130. see resources


[1] James Van Sweden, Architecture in the Garden (New York: Random House, 2002), 81.