Thursday, May 8, 2014

Paintings: Blessed Rolando Rivi and Ven. Matt Talbot

Blessed Rolando Rivi, Terry Nelson, 2014
Acrylic on wood.
16 x 20

Ven. Matt Talbot, Terry Nelson, 2014
Acrylic on gesso panel.
11 x 14

Blessed Rolando Rivi

A young Italian seminarian abducted by Communist partisans in Italy during the War, he was murdered out of hatred for the faith.  The panel depicts the place of his torture and murder in the wood, and how the insurgents mocked and bullied the fourteen year old for wearing his cassock.  The Blessed is tied to a tree suggesting his torture and beating with a belt.  The tree is cut off, symbolizing his own young life cut short, while the branch he is suspended from blossoms in new life, his own martyrdom the seed of new life for the Church.  After his death and burial in a shallow grave, the insurgents hung the cassock from a farm house door as a trophy,  The church at the top is the church of Rolando's baptism - emphasizing the relationship of religious life to baptism, as well as martyrdom.  Read more on Bl. Rolando here.

Venerable Matt Talbot
    Who is Matt Talbot ?   Matt Talbot is a man who discovered the joy of recovery from addiction through a deep sense of self- awareness and spirituality.  He has become a model for "12 step" recovery even though his healing preceded the more defined development of "12 steps" in the mid 1930's.
      Matt Talbot was born on May 2, 1856 in Dublin, Ireland.  He was one of twelve children born to very strict parents.  Until he was twelve, Matt attended a Christian school.  At the age of twelve he began working as a messenger boy for a wine merchant.  This period was the beginning of Matt's troubles with drinking.
      By the time Matt was seventeen and a bricklayer's apprentice, he was a habitual drinker.  At the age of twenty-eight, after a week of irresponsible bingeing, Matt found himself destitute.  He had run out of money and was plagued by an inner craving for just one more drink.  He went to his favorite bars and begged his "so called" friends to give him just enough money to buy a drink.  His "friends" mocked him and ignored his pleas and beyond that did everything to avoid him.
      It was after this devastating experience that Matt realized he needed to change.  He hit bottom.  He knew he needed to find a way to stop drinking.  He became aware that he was powerless over alcohol and that his life was incredibly unmanageable.  It was in this state of awareness that Matt somehow realized he needed to call on his higher power (God) for help.
      For his spiritual strength, he practiced deep meditation and prayer.  He turned his will and his life over to the care of God.   In addition, Matt made a commitment to stop drinking one day at a time.  He vowed to keep his commitment first for just three months, later it was six months and then for life.  Without question it was a struggle but because of his commitment, his profound self-awareness and his deep spirituality, his recovery gradually became permanent and complete.
      Matt Talbot died on June 7, 1925.   He is remembered as an extraordinary man of simplicity.  A man marked by holiness and a profound commitment to recovery from addiction.  A model for others to follow.    - Source

In this painting I depict Matt around the age he died, he is holding a rosary indicating his devotion to Our Lady and the means of his overcoming addiction.  I relied upon the sculpture of Matt in Dublin (here) and the only known photo of him (here) to capture the likeness I produced in my painting.  In the background is a facsimile or impression of Newcomen Bridge crossing the Royal Canal, at the moment when he decided to stop drinking at the age of 28.  On the other side - as if completing the bridge - which symbolizes conversion, we see the door of a church, within Matt being embraced by Christ.  This is suggestive of the doctrine of St. Catherine of Siena who understood the cross - or rather Christ Crucified - as the bridge between men and God.


Anonymous said...

Dear Terry,

Thank you for your inspired painting of the Venerable. You have captured a real sense of serenity in Matt’s face which speaks to us of the depth of spiritual advancement and maturity reached by Matt through prayer and his triumph over addiction.

The darker shadows of his earlier life is seen to be illuminated by the light which surrounds the young man as he peers into the canal in contemplation of his life at the moment of his conversion when he is also filled with God’s grace.

I like this painting very much and I look forward to seeing how you will portray Matt as a young man.

God bless

Fr. Brian Lawless
Vice postulator for the cause of Ven. Matt Talbot

Anonymous said...


Your continuing focus on Matt Talbot surely enhances awareness of his life
and inspires hope for others in overcoming addictions.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

I loveeeee your Matt Talbot painting!
God bless! SF

owenswain said...

Thank you Lord for blessing Terry not only with artistic talent but with the willingness use it to your honour and to share it.

Ken J said...

Terry - thanks for dropping a note on my blog about your new Matt Talbot work! I like it a lot. I recently read Fr. Albert Dolan's book, "We Knew Matt Talbot". In that book Fr. Dolan interviewed a number if people who knew Matt. One thing he would do is show them different paintings of Matt to see which they thought was closest to the "real" Matt and it was the one in the top right on this link by St. Cecelia. When Fr. Dolan would show the different images he had collected of Matt Talbot to people who know him they said that the one by Sister Cecelia in the top right in this link was the most accurate. The only thing they said that was wrong was that he was usually smiling.....

Like your other work, I will get this put on canvas and place it near your other one where out Calix unit meets in Philadelphia.

Thanks again and good to hear from you!

Ken Johnston
Former President, The Calix Society

Terry Nelson said...

Thanks to all for you kind words and comments - I forget to check this site for comments - so I am sorry I haven't thanked you before now.

Terry Nelson said...

Ken - thanks for the link to those images - maybe I should have given the current image I made less hair? Oh well - I kind of used the photo and the sculpture for my model, I'll leave it as is.

Thanks again.