A Survivor

December 30, 2022

I first met Bolton in 1971 at the funeral of Lester H Sellers, and architect and sculptor friend of Bolton’s. Bo had recently done a project for The Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, American’s oldest hospital that had included serious carving. Sellers would often visit Bo and look at his carving tools and say – “Ho, ho Bo whatdya think you’re doing – cutting butter?” Keeping the right sharp edge on carving tools is essential, and hard to do. I know Sellers had advised him on this piece.

As with some of Bolton’s projects especially earlier ones, this project was the result of family connections. The Morris family are among Pennsylvania’s oldest and most distinguished families and years ago that meant a great deal and in Philadelphia the Pennsylvania Hospital remained such an institution for a very long time.

It seems that the new wing would require a chapel where family members, or patients, could retire to pray or meditate and by the mid 19602 that meant a “non-denominational” chapel. And so, he got the commission. I am happy to say a recent visit there brought me the great pleasure of seeing the work once again. The seal of the hospital was an image of the Good Samaritan caring for the dying man and Bo carved in walnut his own version of that scene based on the engraving. It is mounted on a wall of walnut paneling typical of the period and it is beautifully integrated into the main entrance of the hospital building.

Inside he designed a tapestry as an ‘altar’ hanging in the central portion. (As it was Christmastime the setting was littered with evergreens and typical ‘Holiday Decorations’ that prevented a better view). The theme chosen was one of hope – “O All Ye Works of the Lord” Praise Him and Magnify His Name Forever.”

At the rear of the chapel as one leaves is a fine carved walnut plaque with the names of the donors n Bolton’s gorgeous Italic lettering with his own take on Grindling Gibbons style rococo carving.


More Losses

December 8, 2022

The Catholic Church of St Justin Martyr began as a parish near Narberth, PA in the 1960s and by 1988 their pastor, Msgr. Louis P Giorgy, built a new larger church to accommodate the growth of development in the neighborhood. Bolton was brought in to design all the stained glass – his last large commission. The reverend monsignor wanted a testament to the Church Fathers as well as an iconographical depiction of the Creed of Pope Paul VI.

Here are a few more examples:

These last two images are from the Creed window that stretched all the way across the church. None of this was his finest work, though there is considerable merit in the sequence as a whole. Alas by 2009 the church was closed and the building sits for sale. The glass is likely to be removed or destroyed and never seen again.


November 11, 2022

It’s inevitable that over the years changes in taste and condition will alter the deposit of the works of an artist. The dramatic changes from the 1960s to 2022 when I am writing this make this especially clear. Here are some remnants from the most hurtful of his losses. Bo was broken-hearted when in the mid 1980s his great work at St Mary Magdelene in Rose Tree, PA was compromise and much of it demolished.

God the Father (God on a Motorcycle as Bo used to call it)

Descent of the Holy Ghost
Our Lady of the Ironing Board

These three images are from that handsome church designed Lawrence Drake AIA, a fine local architect in 1969. By the mid 1980s the church was deemed too small for the congregation and it was demolished. Happily some of the windows were repurposed for use in the new parish chapel. Among the saved is the image below that I have shown in a previous post.

Adam and Eve – the Expulsion.

Two grievous losses were the enormous 12′ x 24′ tapestry of Christ the King for which I think no image of any kind remains. But worse (!) the fourteen stations of the cross – Abstracted, carved slate panels that were thrown into the trash. Among his finest work.

In a future post I will address the Church of St Justin Martyr, one of his largest projects.

Graphic work again

August 13, 2022

Dated 1969, this woodcut is a most unusual depiction of St Giles living as a hermit in a barren forest near Arles. Bolton as usual eschews the customary romanticism of the saints for a more earthy and powerful image. No pretty deer, no princely genealogy. Just a rough cut lover of Christ in the wilderness. One doesn’t over-each to say there is a great deal of self examination depicted.


December 10, 2021

‘There are landscapes, figure groups, single figures, altar pieces, chasubles, wall hangings large and small – and it feels as if Bolton Morris over the years has been trying to respond to each motif on its own term. Obviously his is a career that has never gone on automatic pilot.’ Victoria Donahue, Art Critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bolton explored every imaginable medium and technique. Here a simple ceramic plaque which I date to about 1959 – as ‘Mid-Century Modern’ as it comes. Both dynamic and charming, though he’d hate my saying that, but never ‘on automatic pilot’. That restlessness rewarded him with a life of economic poverty, but of spiritual wealth. An Oblate of the Benedictines in Portsmouth RI, this plaque probably meant a great deal to him which is why it survived.

Graphic Artist

January 18, 2021

It’s been years now since I posted on this blog, not for want of desire, but for feeling I had exhausted the images I have. However a recent find brought to mind Bolton Morris as a graphic designer. And though I’ve discussed his graphic work before I think it’s worth revisiting. I’ve often mentioned his quick sketches done on the kitchen table with me or another disciple sitting opposite. These he would refine, though at times the quick version was what he wanted to say.

Here are three examples – the last of which I’ve not shown before. The first image comes from Bolton’s “workshop” card done roughly 1960 showing St Dunstan Patron Saint of Church Artists.

Next is St Lawrence made as a holy card for the ordination of a Deacon in 1986.

But the last is extraordinary – a holy card for the funeral mass of a priest in 1983.

I regard it as a work of genius, not that everything Bolton did was a work of genius, but here as he often did he rose to the occasion and that, encouraged no doubt by being given free reign by someone he respected. In this case the late Msgr Richard Simons longtime pastor of ST Anastasia’s Church in Newtown Square PA where Bolton did a number of excellent pieces, some of which are no longer in use (the clergy sometimes feel their personal taste is more important than the parish patrimony). The card was in honor of his brother Msgr Thomas Simons the longtime pastor of St Matthew’s Church Conshohocken, PA.

So I leave you to think about this kind of design – tiny pieces, yet powerful ones despite their scale.

The New Church ca 1970

February 28, 2016


This is perhaps a more autobiographical post than others as I happened upon Bolton Morris’ work as I was just beginning my own pursuit of liturgical art. I had a meeting with an advisor who suggested I have a look at his then new windows at St Katherine of Siena parish in Wayne, PA, which was only one block from my own parish of St Mary’s. I had in fact seen them and admired the new church. He thought I ought to meet him and quite by accident a few months late, I did and  it was unforgettable.

St Katherine’s Church was newly built circa 1970 to replace a noble, but somewhat smaller Victorian gothic church that had been fitted up with elegant furnishings. The new church was the work of Dagit Architects who were for decades the principal architects for the Philadelphia Archdiocese and their work is somewhat mixed, no doubt as with many design projects, due to budgetary constraints. Wayne is an affluent town and so it remains a rather successful building of its time. The glass, too, represents the liturgical design that was au courant in those days.



One of the grandees of the parish was Henry Clifford, curator of painting of the Philadelphia Museum of Art who had been responsible for some of the elegant fittings in the old church and he knew Bolton’s work and his family as well, so Bolton was the natural choice for all the stained glass in the building.

He admitted, no insisted, that it wasn’t his best work, but these are a few examples from this enormous project.


Graphic Bits

July 27, 2015

With great frequency Bolton was asked to produce graphic ornament for service leaflets and mass cards &c. Here is an example from 1989. This was a leaflet for a mass commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of priestly ordination of a beloved friend and the gospel reading for the day (it being Lent 4) was that of the Prodigal Son. To me this narrative design is very charming and full of what Bolton called “incident”. ProdigalSon

Later On

February 4, 2015


With little commentary, I wanted to publish this late photo of Bolton taken sometime in the 1990s. Here he is posing casually with a processional cross he had just finished. This may have been made for the Catholic Chapel at Byberry State Hospital, an institution for the mentally ill. If so, it was part of a full fitting out with new furnishings at the hospital chapel with which I was privileged to assist him. In any event Bolton made quite a large number of crucifixes over his long career and many included Adam and Eve as this does. This is an example of his most stripped down modern design – the sort of thing he used for spaces that seemed to him to demand it.

More graphic design

January 3, 2014





In 1976 the Archdiocese of Philadelphia hosted the 41st International Eucharistic Congress. Bolton Morris, the Rev’d John Miller, and Victoria Donohoe, a local art critic, were among the committee to select works of art for an exhibition of liturgical art that would accompany the congress and exemplify Catholic standards of art in service to the liturgy. It was an interesting exhibition with some remarkable works by internationally known artists – one of the great Matisse chasubles from the chapel of the Holy Rosary at Vence (France) was shown – but the general tone was very much of its period .

Additionally Bolton and some others (myself included) were asked to design covers for the programs of various liturgies. Here are three examples of his covers. The first shows a clear debt to the work of Thomas Bewick, but texts from the psalms of the liturgies were the suggested themes for the cover designs. These were all done with ‘magic markers’ imitating wood engraving.