Friday, May 11, 2007

Francis, painter of angels

A third trip to Vermont to resolve a string of car trouble brought quarry swimming and deeper digging into the family photos.

This is my great grandfather Francis, a Russian artist. He painted murals and portraits for dukes in Lithuania and Poland, then moved to America in 1901 to become a church muralist. Though he was hired to paint churches all over America, letters from his sons described how hard it became to get commisions during the depression. The family would drive from town to town looking for onion domes and making sales pitches to priests with rolled up canvases of painted angels. He tried to invent fake gold leaf to make gilding more affordable. He had to learn to paint with his left hand after he badly burned his right. He was hit by a car and fractured his skull making scaffold work impossible, so he made small religious paintings for funeral parlor calendars for a while.






His sons write about how peculiar and serious he was. He spoke 5 languages and considered painting to be a form of worship. He had a very very fine moustache. 

Seeing an image from my own life that seemed to mirror his got me considering again how much family history effects us, even from ancestors we've never met. How do these things happen? Here is Francis on scaffolding working on an arched niche in a church, probably in Pennsylvania. 




And my work space, on scaffolding working on an arched niche in a yoga studio on Connecticut. 








He painted a lot of angels, my specialty has seemed to become religious text books and fairies. The apple surely doesn't fall far. 








2 comments:

gloria estefan said...

Wow. That's amazing!

meghan

p.s - I want a heart! Where are the hearts for sale?

Libby Koponen said...

I want a heart, too; and I love these.

Also my great-grandmother (who came here from Scotland) came from a family of painters -- her brothers all supported themselves by painting and are in some Scottish museums.