Category Archives: Europe

Robert De Niro and me

Okay, this is a misleading title. But I just watched the HBO documentary on artist Robert De Niro, Sr., a project created by his son, actor Robert De Niro. I was moved by De Niro’s passion to honor his father’s artistic vision and elevate the recognition of his father’s body of work. In her day, my aunt enjoyed local recognition, but as a nun, she did not make her living off of her art. Modesty, not self-promotion, surely kept her from being more widely known. Like Robert De Niro, I am immensely proud of my artist-relative. I would love nothing more than to give her wider exposure and recognition. I beleive there are many of her paintings out there, unheralded. People may not recognize the signature or have any background information on the artist whose work hangs in homes, apartments, galleries and offered up for cheap at yard sales and auctions. 

Although my aunt did not live in New York, I’m certain she knew about the movement and shared similar influences that factored into De Niro’s work with the New York School. She and Robert De Niro came of age in the same era, and perhaps influenced by European aethetics, saw their art as a way to burst free from regulations, confines and conventions. Beyond just being an artist herself, she was an art enthusiast and educator. It was her business to know. She may have traveled in New York (in that era she always had to travel with a companion), but not  in their circles. Nevertheless,  I would be shocked if she didn’t know and admire the work of De Niro’s parents and thier contemporaries. 

His documentary, much like this website, is a labor of love.  Enjoy:

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Iron Crosses, Bruges – update

After a flurry of emails back and forth, I was connected to Chris van Lierop, whose parents were Rev. Richard E. Nelson and Mrs. Dorothy Rawlings Nelson.

I received this lovely note from Chris:

“I looked again at your website. Iron Crosses is in the background of the newspaper photo dated Feb 18, 1960. That article mentions Cedar Falls. I assume that my parents met Sister Mary James Ann at that time.

My father was campus pastor at Norther Iowa U at that time. In that capacity, he organized exhibits of religious art at the student center on campus on Serely Blvd. We lived in that building when I was born in 1956 and for the first three years of my life. I had assumed that my parents met Sister in connection with one of the exhibits they organized. But perhaps it was at the other exhibit in Cedar Falls mentioned in the article.”

My family moved to Duluth, MN, in 1964. Iron Crosses hung in our dining room there for 45 years!

Chris also shared that Iron Crosses, Bruges was donated to the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.  She provided me with a photo that was provided by Dr. Rodney Allen Schwartz, director of the Westminster Gallery and Archive, who has given me permission to use it here:

Iron Crosses, Bruges is inspired by a cemetery in Belgium that features hundreds of iron crosses slowly rusting.  Courtesy of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Minneapolis

However, Chris did inform me that the painting in the background of this clipping is Iron Crosses, Bruges. I would have never known unless I saw the original!

Iron Crosses, Bruges is behind my aunt on the wall. It is vibrant in reds, golds, oranges and pinks! News clippings provided by Clarke College (University).

According to a 1960 article SisterJamesAnn_1960, my aunt was inspired to create this along with many other images during an art student tour of Europe.

I have never been to Belgium, but I was curious about what my aunt may have been looking at.  I found this picture from a Google search – I couldn’t find who owns it but it was on a website called dipity.com

Iron Crosses, photo found on dipity.com

I also found this YouTube video searching for photographs. Not all of the images shown in this video are of crosses made of iron. Some ornate crosses are found individually on top of headstones, and this collection, set to lovely music, shows the same area photographed above, but dusted with snow. I think it sets a pensive tone.

Chris is also going to try and find some old family photographs where the painting hung in the dining room!  The painting was 48″ by 34″ tall.

I will discuss the detail of the image at a later date here.

European Tour

According to the BVM Vista article”Join a Sister Artist” my aunt and a group of her students traveled to Europe to conduct a sketching tour. This trip inspired many of her most commented on work – paintings I have been unable to locate.

They are represented here in black and white PDF scans as:Medieval Gothic abbey in Dijon, Forest of candles at Chartres,

Two excerpts from the the scan of a photocopy of an article!

Street festival in Brussels, excerpted from BVM Vista, 1960

Hills of Assis, Street festival in Brussels and Canal in Amsterdam. I am not sure if these are the actual titles or just captioned as such for this publication. I know they have to exist somewhere!

 

 

Click on the hyperlink above to view the whole article.

Blue City 2/12

Actual title and image unknown. Courtesty of Clarke University, Iowa

This is my second favorite, and it’s a very close second.My aunt traveled and studied in Europe and I suspect that is the inspiration, if not model for this image.

I see a river in the center, with the city’s buildings facing closely on each side. Their structure is reflected in the water. Obviously very impressionistic in nature, I will return to this post later and comment more.  I invite you to share your comments too! Please read my intro about these discoveries!

As with all 12 discoveries, actual date, medium, and title are yet unknown to me.