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.
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”.
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.
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.
May 2, 2012
Few people had the gift of self-examination that Bolton had. He was keenly aware of his failings – sometimes to the point of preventing forward motion. This hard look at himself is undated, but I recall he was working on it in the early 1970s – it was abandoned as were many projects over time – perfectionism produces its own flaws. It is certainly not a lovely image, except that for those of us who loved him it might inspire us to do some soul-searching of our own. I doubt I could be as honest as he showed himself to be here. Suitably for a hard look at oneself it is larger than life-size and is classical painting in the academic fashion as taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art where he studied following the Second World War. I pray for Bo regularly and I hope he is praying for me.
December 29, 2011
Bolton would no doubt be annoyed that I include this gouache image on illustration board. Sorry, Bo!
These designs, dating I think to the 1950s, were for a series of four banners with the theme “We Build With Christ” and were to have been executed in appliqué embroidery, a medium he took to high art with his later series for the 1976 Eucharistic Congress. I do not believe these were ever executed. Do click on the image for a closer view that included his notes on each design.
August 18, 2011
Over and over again, like all liturgical artists, Bolton was asked to reinvent the wheel. How many crucifixes did he make, or how many Madonnas? Who knows? I certainly watched him make several sets of Stations of the Cross, some never finished. Here’s an example of how he worked out the problem. Christ Takes up the Cross; anguish (something Bolton knew a great deal about), pain, suffering.
His method varied but here a common approach for him – done on the kitchen table as he often did. Hasty impression laid in in ball point pen (!) and then the steady broad brush strokes in sepia wash. He might hesitate for days over a project, but when it came time to lay brush to paper or panel – the hesitancy was past.
February 12, 2011
Here they are – the two final versions of the episcopal coats of arms Bolton designed that were ultimately rejected. You will note the second is the final version of the sketch from the preceding post.
February 12, 2011
I’ve mentioned the kitchen table before – the place where Bolton worked out many a design including this one.
But I’m not talking about the Herald Tribune or an archangel, rather Bolton’s love of the art of heraldry. He treasured many books on the subject and would lecture me on the importance of keeping to the classical forms rather than the niggling designs so common in the Church.
And he was utterly delighted when he was called upon to design arms for two new auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He eventually developed two fine designs – and when I find the final versions I’ll post them. In the meantime here is a rough sketch worked out for one bishop who shall remain nameless. These were carefully considered and drawn in his fine pen and ink drawing style and printed for the ordination service. Shortly thereafter, to his dismay and considerable sadness the designs were jettisoned in favor of “conventional” heraldic designs or the sort that are common – full of bits and pieces – and very weak indeed. As a colleague recently remarked to me – “a coat of arms is not a resumé”. So here’s Bolton’s “canting” arms – canting refers to the use of a charge (or emblem) that refers directly to the name of the individual. Enough said.
June 15, 2010
For many years, before they were officially sidelined, Bolton attended mass at the local chapter of Dignity, an organisation of gay and lesbian Catholics. It was a rough time for many American Catholics of a liturgical mindset as few parishes delivered on the promises of Vatican II to renew the liturgy according to the Liturgical Movement that Bolton was very much a part of and indeed what passed for liturgy at Dignity wasn’t – in his phrase – “all that it might be.” Still, he was committed to the concept and community.
This little cut (as newspaper images were once called) was produced rather in a hurry for the Dignity newsletter on the occasion of their “Valentine’s” Day celebration in the late 1970’s. He took the whole matter with his customary grain of salt. Again it shows his grasp of graphic design and his debt to artists like Thomas Bewick.