|7ish x 9ish Crucifixion Scene by F.R. Bogdan, 1930 (Photos courtesy of Tom Sale)|
|An early 1900's ad in several church publications.|
This sent my mother and I into an information frenzy. Google and I became best buds. I found that the artist, F.R. Bogdan was a Ecclesiastical Artist. Basically, he was commissioned to do religious paintings for churches and just all around religious folk. He would paint them in New York and ship them. Sometimes, he would travel to the location to do murals and more cumbersome pieces. There are several prints for sale on current art sites. It's fun to compare the prints to our massive canvas.
It's first unfurling was at the home of my college art teacher, Tom Sale. We stood and stared at it for several minutes, snapping pictures and chatting about the merits of the painting. It was amazing and, honestly, took my breath away.
I've talked to an appraiser, but she couldn't give me much information and admittedly said that religious art was not her forte. So, I have very little information other than what is included in this article.
Any which way, this is a fun part of my family's history. My mom is unable to display it and it is currently in storage at my home. I wish I was able to display this wonderful piece of art. I have been dragging my feet on appraisal and selling only because I love the history and the piece itself. So, I will put it out there. This piece is for sale. Reasonable offers will be run by my mother. I only hope that whomever buys it will enjoy it displayed as much as we have enjoyed it the past few years.
The following is a recollection of the events behind the acquisition of the painting. It's a great story that I am proud to kind of, sort of be a part of.
In My Mom's Words:
Provenance of “The Crucifixion” by F.R. Bogdan, 1930I acquired this painting during my senior year (1967–1968) at St. John Catholic High School, in Ennis, Texas. Since I lived in the country, I had to wait for the school bus to take a first group of students home, and return for my group, called the “second route”. One day, while our group was waiting outside, the school janitor/church handyman called to us and said he wanted to show us something in the bus garage.
What he showed us was this painting. At the time, it was framed, approximately 8-1/2 feet by 10-1/2 feet. The frame was of absolutely plain dark wood, maybe 8 inches wide, and the painting was even backed by wood, I imagine for support of the large size of the canvas. The janitor said it was so heavy it had taken four strong men to lift and carry it.
He said that it had been in the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Ennis. This was at the corner of Preston and Baylor Streets, a small white frame building which I believe was a converted house, and which was eventually shut down some years after the newer, more magnificent basilica style St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church was built. When the church was torn down, this painting, and other artifacts, had been brought to the St. John bus garage for storage. Now, he said, the space was needed for an additional bus, and he was trying to find a home for the painting. He had shown it to various parishioners, but everyone turned it down, mainly because of its size and weight. It was destined for the dump if not taken.
One of my fellow students, who was taking private art lessons, began to find fault with the picture, in particular saying the dice were not in proportion to the size of the Centurions’ hands. But I immediately fell in love with the painting, and was determined to have it. For one thing, I felt the history of it needed to be preserved, coming from the original Catholic and mainly Czech church. For another, I do not have artistic talent, but greatly appreciate those who do, and I imagined the hours of work that went in to the painting of it, and I fancied the artist had a certain religious fervor to attempt such a grand project. But as I remember it, so many years later, what really spoke to me about the painting were the vibrant colors and what I perceived as a certain naivete and honesty in the expressions of the almost life-sized figures. In Catholic school, we had been exposed ad nauseam to reproductions of religious paintings by the great Italian masters, and truth to tell, I was turned off by the pomposity and artificiality of the expressions and poses in those paintings. This painting seemed to me to be a better representation of the real people who had participated in this event.
So, as the rest of the group wandered off expressing disinterest, I told the janitor that I definitely wanted the painting, but couldn’t take it in the frame. Could it be removed from the frame? He said he would check with the church pastor, Monsignor Tucek, and get permission, both for me to have it and for it to be taken from the frame.
The next day permission was given, and the janitor cut it from the frame, saying he would cut the frame up for disposal, and he rolled it up on a piece of plastic pipe for me to take home. I asked my daddy to come pick it up, which he did not want to do, but after quite a bit of fancy talking he went home after work one day and got the cattle trailer and came to take it home for me.
My thought had been to hang it up frameless in my room, but my room was built in the attic with sloping ceilings and short walls, and there was no place big enough to put the painting. Daddy wanted to store the painting in the barn. After much more talking, we settled on putting it in the small, triangular storage area created under the roof when the walls of my room were put up.
Plan B was to frame and hang the painting when I someday owned a house big enough for it. I even purchased an old church pew, thinking to hang it in a hallway with the church pew opposite it, to enjoy and contemplate. For various reasons, this never happened.
From time to time, daddy would remember the painting and ask what I was going to do about it. After a number of years had passed, I assumed that the painting was probably ruined, because the storage area was dusty and there were mice and mud daubers in it, and you could see daylight where the roof met the walls. I decided to forget about the hanging-and- enjoying plan, and just keep it as a memory/keepsake of long ago. I told daddy that I just wanted to keep it where it was, since it wasn’t in anyone’s way and I was afraid it would fall apart if it was moved. He agreed that it wasn’t hurting anything where it was, and I could continue to store it there.
It was a complete surprise to me when the painting was recently brought out and unfurled, to find it in the good shape that it is. Given the subject matter, a religious person might think that it had been under some special protection, and even that it might have afforded protection to daddy’s house, which is a very old farmhouse, and not in good repair.
It has been a delight to see the painting again after 43 years, and to research the artist who painted it.