Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is one of the canvases on display at Mundare.

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is one of the canvases on display at Mundare.

October 14, 2013
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

A common image of the Holy Trinity shows the Father portrayed as an old man with a long beard, the Son represented as a young man with a short beard, and the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove.

In one of the earliest commissions in Canada, the Ukrainian-Canadian iconographer Peter Lipinski, who lived from 1888 to 1975, painted exactly such a picture for Star-Peno Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church. Located 15 km north of Lamont, it is the oldest Ukrainian Catholic parish in the country.

Over his lifetime, in Alberta alone, Lipinski painted the interiors of 45 churches.

Many of his greatest works are on display at the Basilian Fathers' Museum in Mundare. The Mundare exhibit is called Peter Lipinski: Large and Small Canvases. It includes six life-size canvases by Lipinski that have recently been restored, in addition to several smaller pieces.

Karen Lemiski, curator and associate director of the museum, said most iconographers painted other subject matter as well, whereas Lipinski is known exclusively for his religious works. In fact, Lipinski is credited with having produced possibly more religious works of art than any other painter in Canada.

SPARKLING EYES

Lemiski said many of his works are determined to be authentic based on "the large eyes, wide and bright, one of the characteristics of his work."

John the Baptist

WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER

John the Baptist

Lipinski trained as an iconographer in Galicia before coming to Canada prior to the First World War. He settled in Edmonton, and began to do work for many Ukrainian Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, Russo-Orthodox and Polish Roman Catholic churches throughout Western Canada.

Lemiski said that because most Prairie churches were heated by only a wood stove, Lipinski could not paint their interiors during the winter.

Instead, during the colder months, he focused on smaller pieces such as portable icons, processional banners, panels for tabernacles and altars, and shrouds. Many of these canvases were sold through a church supply store in Winnipeg.

"For his inspiration, from what I've noticed lately, from a holy card he would have had an image and he's created the canvas from that image," said Lemiski.

Somewhat against Church tradition, Lipinski's works often include an identification of the subject and the name of the person commemorated by the donating families.

Typically, religious art is created to solely honour God, and such inscriptions draw attention away from the spiritual focus of the image.

The iconographer's daughter, Eugenia Lipinski, still lives in Edmonton. She viewed her father's exhibit in Mundare in late September.

The Basilian Fathers Museum was founded in 1953. A valuable collection of religious artifacts found a permanent home alongside unique collections of Ukrainian Easter eggs, embroidery, weaving, pioneer tools and folk artifacts. The current building was built in 1991, and combines elements of Ukrainian folk architecture and Byzantine church style.

HIDDEN MURALS

The Edmonton home that the Lipinski family lived in from 1929 to 1975 still holds some of the famous iconographer's work. The home, along 103rd Ave. and 93rd St., has Lipinski's murals painted on the walls.

"I love this home. Nothing has really been altered, except the previous owner covered up the murals with wallpaper," said Manon Aubry, the current homeowner. "There is one place where the wallpaper is curling up, so you can see what the mural looks like."