Portraits

St. Francis Xavier, Patron Saint of Missionaries

In celebration of St.Francis Xavier

"En el Nombre del Padre..." San Francisco Javier Baptizing, retablo painting by AVonnHartung, in Parroquia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico)This painting shows the humble Jesuit missionary baptizing a youth

St. Francis Xavier brought more than 30,000 souls into the Faith. Known as the “Apostle of the Indies” and “Apostle of Japan”, he is said to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul.

 

This Painting/Retablo was commissioned by Padre Julio Victor García in 2002 for Iglesia San Francisco Javier (Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico). It measures 6 feet in width by 11 feet in height and is my original design, built from solid mahogany, painted in acrylic and gilded with gold and copper leaf.

The vertical format symbolizes this world, our Church and the witness of the life and evangelizing work of San Francisco Javier.

The frame, through its striking presence displays the Sign of the Cross with which we as Christians identify ourselves in and through Baptism. It represents the tireless work of St. Francis, from sunrise to sunset, and the eternal truth, the Alpha and Omega of Christ. It acts as a window through which we enter to find further truths.

St. Francis Xavier is portrayed baptizing a youth who symbolizes the future church whose people are seen coming to the Faith.

The Holy Family is represented by any and all who do the Will of the Father in bringing young souls to be saved.

The Children brought forth by their Godparents engage us in reflection and contemplative prayer.

The Holy Trinity: Above the head of St. Francis is depicted the sacred image of The Holy Trinity, originally written (painted) by the great 15th century Russian iconographer Andre Rublev. Its inclusion is meant to draw us into the mystery of God,and to remind us of God’s love. It also prophetically reminds us of Jesus’ words as expressed in John 15: 26-27 (“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”)

The Background: Surrounding this cascade of divinity with its luminous light and vapors, are luxurious examples of Holy Creation as expressed in the abundance of nature – by the breadfruit and mango trees, symbolizing Love, Beauty and Resurrection, and by the depiction of the dove which is drawn closer, and the serpent which is driven away.

“They who pray with faith have fervor and fervor is the fire of prayer. This mysterious fire has the power of consuming all our faults and imperfections, and of giving to our actions, vitality, beauty and merit.” (Francis Xavier)

 

“Let it be Done”

 

 

 

"Let it be Done", painting by AVonnHartung for Walsingham UK

Deep in the night with the Star of Jesus centered in the sky, Mary is in prayer, surrounded by the symbols of her faith.She prays that in some small way she might serve in the coming of the promised Messiah. Suddenly her prayers are answered!

The ceiling opens!

The Angel Gabriel descends in divine glory and declares the message from God the Father. After pondering deep in her heart the words and their meaning, Mary gives her consent.

At that very moment she is filled with the luminous light of grace as she vows to fulfill the will of the Father and to deliver His only Son incarnate as Jesus Christ into the world according to His divine plan for our salvation.

This original painting by AVonnHartung (acrylic 36″x 60″) was created for EWTN (UK)’s new welcoming center at the National Shrine of England (Mary’s House of Nazareth) in the village of Walsingham. The painting is an interpretation of the visions received by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (Augustinian Nun) in 1821, with some added symbolism by the Artist to enhance and clarify the spiritual and prophetic consequences of the Annunciation Event.

THE WALSINGHAM STORY

“In 1061, the widow of the lord of the manor of Walsingham (Richeldis de Faverches) had a series of visions of the Virgin Mary, who showed her the house in Nazareth where the angel Gabriel made his revelation of the forthcoming birth of Jesus. Our Lady asked Richeldis to build a replica of the holy house in Walsingham.” It was at a time when it was extremely dangerous to visit the Holy Land, so this replica of Mary’s House would afford English Christians the opportunity to pay homage to her house in their own country. Walsingham became the premier shrine, and a large Christian community and monastery grew in its proximity.

“During medieval times, Walsingham was visited by thousands of pilgrims from all over Britain and Europe, including nearly all the kings and queens of England from Henry III (c1226). Royal visits continued right up to Henry VIII (1511). Then came the Reformation in 1538.”
When the pope refused to grant him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, Henry VIII ordered the destruction of Mary’s House in 1538. It was burned to the ground and the statue of Our Lady was taken to London to be destroyed.
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The Shrine at Walsingham is visited today by 350,000 pilgrims annually.

 “When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England.”

(Pope Leo XIII)

SYMBOLISM IN THE PAINTING

The opening of the roof exposes the open sky showing the constellations of Virgo and Leo and the location of the holy house in Nazareth. The Star of Jesus, better known as the Star of Bethlehem, is used here to signify the presence and the will of the Father.

Mary’s Halo shows an ethereal lightening, a shimmering of the atmosphere around her head, indicating her divine nature; her luminosity and state of grace.

The Scroll on the prayer table symbolizes the prophecy of Isaiah (“Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Immanuel” Isaiah 7:14).

Mary’s belt shows a symbol of the Fetus.

The Three Lilies on the prayer table remind us of the promise of Joseph to honor Mary’s vow of virginity and dedication to the Lord.

The Three Lilies carried by the angel Gabriel are a sign of the fulfillment of her vow and a blessing of her faithfulness.

The Rug (woven in lamb’s wool) represents Mary’s faith and prayer life. Its design, which emanates from and surrounds the Star of Jesus (“For we have seen his star in the east…” Matthew 2:2) is made up of symbols and scenes in the life of Christ to come.

The design of the the Floor Tiles symbolizes the flow which spread the Christian Faith from nation to nation throughout the world (“Go ye and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19).

The Fireplace is a symbol of the home and family, of warmth, well-being and security.

The Drawn Curtain on Mary’s bed reminds us of the torn veil of the temple (Matthew 27:51); a symbol of hope reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, death and resurrection and promise of eternal life; the faint spectrum of color emanating from the curtain, a symbol of revelation.

The Hope Chest beneath the bed reminds us of the simplicity and humble social status of Mary, the young bride of Joseph the Carpenter. This same Mary who will become the Mother of God.

Amen

Teacher Mentor Friend Hero

As I prepare to travel to my high school reunion, the image which completely dominates my mind’s eye is Francis X Sweeney, an iconic figure in my life and in the lives of generations of students in Waterford, Connecticut.

 

Francis X Sweeney (circa 1960)
Francis X Sweeney (circa 1960)

“Fran Sweeney has been the face of athletics in Waterford, Connecticut from an education perspective, for 60 plus years. He was truly the originator of the athletic program. Every sport that came about, he would have his hand in setting it up for the school.” (Dan Steward, First Selectman)

A native of Maine, Mr. Sweeney began teaching physical education in Waterford in 1951. When the high school opened in 1956, he became the first athletic director, and also taught math, science and health. He coached nearly every sport and doubled as a trainer, lifeguard and swimming instructor. A father of six and devoted husband to Betty Cragin Sweeney, he was insistent on having as many sports for women as men. He was committed to Waterford, becoming a member of both the Boards of Education and the Waterford Recreation and Parks Committee.

When finally retiring after 28 years of teaching and coaching, he began a new career in nursing and sports medicine which earned him the honorable title of “Doc” and all this while still coaching at Connecticut College and officiating softball. He fulfilled his own motto “Do your best!”

You didn’t have to be an athlete to be in Fran’s inner circle. He looked at who the person was and what their qualities were.

Portrait of a Hero Francis X Sweeney, TeacherMentorFriend_oil portrait by AVonnHartung
Francis X Sweeney, “TeacherMentorFriend” Oil portrait

He loved the students of Waterford, acting as a mentor to many.

He was a terrific person from a high school kid’s perspective. He was always so approachable. I think every kid that went through those halls had a similar perspective to who he was. He had this magnetism that was pretty powerful.” (Jim Cavalieri WHS 1973)

In April 2013 I contacted a group of friends from the class of 1960 and we launched a grassroots effort to change a 213 year old town policy which prohibited naming buildings or fields after any one person.

It was like a tsunami! It took on a life of its own. Communicating with all these people, most of them much younger than me, that’s what would have excited Fran the most, that we were all connecting and working together.

Hundreds of people signed petitions and on September 26th the Board of Education voted to change the policy and on October 29th unanimously voted to name the new athletic complex the Francis X Sweeney Field House.

Now, 213 years later, they have changed the policy and the town has assumed a personality. And there is no better personality to choose than Francis X Sweeney.

Plaque Text for Francis X Sweeney Field House
Plaque Text for Francis X Sweeney Field House

See the video tribute to Francis X Sweeney

I was deeply inspired to paint an oil portrait of Mr. Sweeney shortly after he passed away in December 2012. The painting was later reproduced as a very large giclee print on canvas and unveiled by the Sweeney family at the Dedication Ceremony  in January 2014.

Sweeney Family unveils portrait of Francis X Sweeney by AVonnHartung
Sweeney Family unveils portrait of Francis X Sweeney by AVonnHartung

The idea of painting a portrait was planted in my mind even before I thought about naming the field house for him. He was such a good friend and it was something that I could do despite me being so far away.

“The portrait…shows Sweeney in the foreground holding a basketball, as if he were inviting the viewer to join him to shoot some hoops.”

When I started, I closed my eyes and thought of Fran in his fullest. The essence of Fran Sweeney was that he wanted to play ball and he wanted you to play ball with him. He wanted people to learn, to have fun and to feel good in their own bodies.

 

 

Television Interview with A.Vonn Hartung

EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) will be airing an interview on March 5, 2015 with A.Vonn Hartung about Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago, and Vonn’s experience painting the portrait that is at the Vatican.

THE CHURCH IN PUERTO RICO (30 minute duration)
Thursday March 5 at 3:00 am & 6:30 pm Eastern Time
[Puerto Rico time: 4:00 am and 7:30 pm]

The first 15 minutes of the program is a conversion story about a young man who turned his life around and is now studying for the priesthood; the second part is the interview with Vonn.

The EWTN program can be seen on–
Liberty Cablevision Channel 103 ( in Puerto Rico)
Dish Network Channel 261
DirecTV Channel 350
ROKU

Please visit the EWTN website for channel listings in your local area.
http://www.ewtn.com

Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago portrait by AVonnHartung_at Pontifical North American College Vatican
“Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago”
Oil portrait-
at Pontifical North American College, Vatican

 

This is the oil portrait of Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodriguez Santiago by A.Vonn Hartung © 2001, presented to the Pontifical North American College at the Vatican on the occasion of the beatification of Carlos Manuel on 29 april 2001, and is on permanent display there in the Hall of Saints.

To learn more

 

 

 

 

Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Juan Diego

"Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Juan Diego" painting by AVonnHartung
“Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe with St. Juan Diego” painting by AVonnHartung

Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico and Empress of the Americas…today December 12, the day that she left her image imprinted on Juan Diego’s tilma. (translation from La Palabra Entre Nosotros)

This painting also celebrates St. Juan Diego, whose Feast Day is December 9th.

In 2003 I was commissioned by Parroquia San Ignacio (9:30 Community) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to paint “Our Lady of Guadalupe” to be given as a gift to Father Donald Vega SJ, on the occasion of his 50th anniversary as a priest. (She is his personal patron saint)

I added a personal detail by including his dog Luigi in the foreground. Luigi and Lola were orphaned dogs taken in by Father Vega. They would lie down before the altar and in the first pew everyday as he celebrated mass.

Here is a brief history of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Spanish translation follows

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Love Lives!

Most Recent Portraits by A.VonnHartung 2014

"Love Lives" pastel portraits by AVonnHartung
“Love Lives” pastel portraits by AVonnHartung

The painting of portraits (artist’s statement)

Next to Sacred Art, portrait painting is for me a deep spiritual experience, a prayerful endeavor.

In and through the physical characteristics of the person being painted is a map guiding me through and beyond emotions to near where the soul of the person lives. Here I coax the soul out, so-to-speak, with whispers and fleeting glimpses through compassion, intuition and something mystical. This hopefully endows the finished image with a FEELING of who the person being painted IS.
 
I always speak in the present tense of portraits because they have a soul and the soul always lives and is present. AVH
 

“Manuel Diaz and Family” pastel portrait by A.Vonn Hartung 2014

Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago

Thirteen years ago today on April 29, 2001, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Santiago was beatified by His Holiness (now Saint) John Paul II. “He was the first Puerto Rican, the first Caribbean-born layperson and the first layperson in the history of the United States to be beatified.

At the core of Blessed Carlos’ spirituality (Pope John Paul II  said) was his faith in the Resurrection. He promoted the Easter Vigil as the defining moment of Christian spiritual life, repeating often, “We live for that night.” (Vivimos para esa Noche)

BlessedCarlosManuel Rodriguez2_vonn hartung
Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez
Oil portrait by A. Vonn Hartung 2001

In 2001 I was deeply honored and humbled to be commissioned by the archbishop of San Juan, Monsignor Roberto González Nieves, to paint the official portrait of Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, to be given as a gift from Puerto Rico to the Pontifical North American College in Vatican City where it is exhibited in the Hall of Saints.

The Portrait is painted with various symbolic elements which express a visual prayer that “speaks to the eye” of what it was that helped bring Blessed Carlos Manuel to such an intimate connectedness to our Lord and Savior. The absolute serenity and joy in Charlie’s look is the faith that we seek, the faith that seeks us.

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El Jíbaro

Today is Earth Day. What better moment to pay homage to the noble “El Jíbaro”, the Puerto Rican cultural icon! “El Jíbaro” symbolizes to me the “salt of the Earth”

"El Jíbaro" oil portrait by AVonnHartung
“El Jíbaro”
Oil portrait by A.Vonn Hartung

“El Jibaro” is a painting inspired by my neighbors who have cultivated the land of their ancestors from the beginning.

Don Pepe represents for me all those who still cultivate the land; living links to our past, sustenance today and hope for abundance and sustainability in the future.

This painting was inspired by my neighbor Don Pepe “el Múcaro” (the Owl) O’Neill, who I am proud to call my friend. May he rest in peace!

(16″x20″ oil portrait, artist’s collection)

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