Tuesday, October 03, 2017

St Therese of Lisieux: A Painting by Henry Wingate

This past Sunday, October 1, would in other years be the commemoration of St Therese of Lisieux, also known as St Therese of the Child Jesus, in the Ordinary Form; today is her feast day in the Extraordinary Form. She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1997, shortly after the centenary of her death.

Here is a recent portrait of her by Henry Wingate. We have photographs of St Therese which many people are familiar with. Given this, it can be difficult to adapt a photograph to the abstracted style of Gothic or iconographic art. The Baroque style, which is more naturalistic, would seem to be a better way to go in many cases, and I think that this painting by Henry is as successful as any sacred image  I have seen.

I asked Henry to write a few words about the commission, and he sent me the following. 
I was given the commission to paint an image of St Therese by Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, who was the interim president of Human Life International. The painting was for the chapel in HLI’s headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia. Monsignor wished the painting to illustrate St Therese holding roses, but also handing a rose to the viewer.
Monsignor was a pleasure to work with on this project. 
We looked at many photographs of the saint and chose one to use for the painting. I paint almost exclusively from life, so this was an unusual project, because I had to use a photo to make the saint look as she did. The photo we chose did have good lighting and good shadows which are vital to have in order to produce a three-dimensional and real to life portrait. I did use a model in order to give my painting of St. Therese good color, and I used the same model to paint the hands. I borrowed a habit from the Carmelite Monastery in Brooklyn, New York, in order to have an authentic looking habit in my painting. 
The painting was completed in February of 2016. It is a life-size image of the saint, painted on linen canvas with oils. The painting is 38 by 27 inches in size. It now hangs in the chapel in the Human Life International building. Monsignor Barreiro was happy with the portrait. He died just slightly more than one year later, on Holy Thursday of 2017, after a long battle with cancer. My prayer and hope is that Monsignor is now enjoying St. Therese’s company, and possibly she greeted him with a rose.

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