A relative of Francis Quirk provided us with an image of the painter's portrait of his father Edward. The painting depicts him sitting in the pew at St. Mary’sChurch in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Pawtucket is located just North of Providence and was a prosperous town with a healthy middle class. It still retains a great deal of charm.
Edward was a church stalwart, regularly taking the same place at mass, so the location is fitting. We estimate that the painting dates from around 1940 when Francis Quirk was 33 years old.
|Portrait of the artist's father Ed Quirk in St. Mary's Church. Pawtucket, Rhode Island|
Ed Quirk had great faith in two things: the Church and the Union. The ray of light shining in highlights a union-pin on his lapel. One of his sons would go on to hold a significant position in the AFL-CIO.
Since Pawtucket is not too far, we decided to capitalize on the geographic proximity to go and visit this location. The Deacon at St. Mary’s graciously opened the beautiful church and allowed us to explore the space. We sought to recreate the location of the painting, which provided some interesting insights into Quirk’s technique.
The Church had changed a bit in the intervening years as the interior paint had been lightened considerably from a dark green in the painting to a more subdued, and esthetically pleasing, palette of light pastel hues. Thanks to the arrangement of windows and the station, we were able to find the site of the seating with little difficulty.
|Side-by-Side Images of Portrait and Location|
When we compare Quirk’s painting with the image of the space we can see the similarities. Quirk captured the pillar perfectly and the alignment of the window and station of the cross. The light does stream in through the windows in those powerful white beams.
But there also were a number of differences. We thought the angle of our photo was too high, but the camera was held fairly low, so it seems that the painter chose to exclude the pew rails receding into the painting. Quirk modified the station of the cross relief to make it more ornate. He also simplified the shape of the pew end pieces.
|Close up of Portrait Detail Church Pew End Pieces|
Quirk changed the stained glass of the window; adding in considerably more red than in the original window. If one imagines the windows as being painted with the more translucent clear glass, the affect of the light beam illuminating the pin would have been diminished. All four of these changes were discretionary acts as none of these structural features have changed during the interim.
We looked to see if we could find the source of the image used for the window. In the back of the church there was one window with some similarity. In the image on the right one can see how the light streams in and how Quirk effectively captured it in the portrait.
|Close up of Portrait Detail Stained Glass|
This visit gave us insights into Quirk's technique in that he was not ironclad in holding to a view to paint reality. Instead he added, subtracted and tweaked the world to enhance its beauty.
We cannot thank Deacon Patrick enough for his hospitality and support. If you are ever in Pawtucket and want to see a beautiful church St. Mary’s is well worth a visit. When one is enthralled by the great beauty created in response to faith, one cannot help but feel the touch of God just a little bit. Below are a few other photos of the church.
|Entrance of St. Mary's Church Pawtucket, Rhode Island|
|Altar of St. Mary's Church Pawtucket, Rhode Island|
|Interior of St. Mary's Church Pawtucket, Rhode Island|
|St Cecilia iplays the organ n center of stained glass above the entrance of St. Mary's Church Pawtucket, Rhode Island|