Oil portraits

The World’s Greatest Challenge!

Saving God’s Creation

The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.    Isa 24:5

                 Through Him all things were made Jn 1:3


Visualizing Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’


                             Defendamos la Creación



                                     Breath of Life    



                                                  Latter-Day Jonah



                                       Thorns of Christ



"El Jíbaro" oil portrait by AVonnHartung
                                                        El Jíbaro


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

Update: See the video interview

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

Please visit the EWTN website for channel listings in your local area.

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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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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