STAA presents “Hand of the master”

St. Tammany Art Association presents “Hand of the Master” a new exhibition featuring the artwork of Benedictine Monk, Dom Gregory de Wit.

COVINGTON, LA – The paintings of Benedictine Monk and artist Dom Gregory de Wit bring Biblical and historical narratives to life through emotive and vibrant color palettes, bold use of iconography, and compositions often full of bizarre details that could only be rendered at the “Hand of the Master”.  

The son of a fabric maker, Dom Gregory de Wit paid great attention to the cloths and fabrics that adorned the iconic, ecclesiastic figures in his paintings. Inspired by Italian Byzantine mosaics, de Wit painted his figures in great detail and specificity. He used vibrant palettes and bold outlines that strike awe in viewers. De Wit’s eclectic character and sense of humor are also seen throughout his work. While the subjects of de Wit’s paintings are Biblical, he treated each one as a piece of artwork able to be admired and discussed from both secular and non-secular perspectives.  

While most of de Wit’s paintings live on abbey walls and church ceilings, STAA is excited and grateful to have 29 paintings included in the exhibition, “Hand of the Master”. Fifteen pieces of work are on loan from the Collection of St. Joseph Abbey. The rest of the paintings being exhibited are on loan from private collections. De Wit’s humor and use of narrative are seen in “Madonna of the Ironing Board”. From the Collection of Mary Lee Eggart, the painting shows a domestic and comical scene that depicts the Holy Family at home while the Virgin Mary stands ironing. Showing the Holy Family taking part in such a mundane domestic activity immediately creates a sense of ironic and amusing normalcy.  Nine paintings, including painted “sketches” or studies for larger compositions to be painted in St. Joseph Abbey, are from the Collection of the Stone Family. Other paintings included are from the Private Collections of Rick and Cathy Schroeder; David and Jaclyn Warren; Edward Begnaud; and Andy and Katie Friedrich who were gifted their painting, “Blessed Mother” by de Wit on the occasion of their marriage. 

St. Tammany Art Association (STAA) will open the exhibition to the public on Saturday, December 7, 2019, and will host an opening reception on Saturday, December 14, 2019, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm. The reception will include a special performance of Christmas Carols sung by the St. Joseph Abbey Seminary Choir. The exhibit will be on display through Saturday, January 25, 2020, in our main Miriam Barranger Gallery. A de Wit Expert and Archivist Panel Discussion will take place on Saturday, January 18, 2020, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM. The panel will feature Edward Begnaud, a historian and author who explores de Wit’s work at St. Joseph Abbey in “Living in Salvation”; author and art historian, Fr. Aelred Kavanaugh; and Mary Lee Eggart, artist, historian, and archivist at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge – home to many de Wit murals including the massively scaled “Victorious Christ” that dominates the dome of the apse. 

De Wit was born in the Netherlands in 1892 and entered the Benedictine monastery in Belgium where he was ordained. While in Belgium he studied art at the Brussels Academy of Art, the Munich Academy in Germany, and continued his studies throughout Italy. De Wit exhibited at The Hague in Holland where he gained great recognition as an artist. Soon after, he met an American Abbot visiting Europe who invited him to design and execute paintings for the abbey’s church and chapter room in Indiana. After completing the commission in Indiana, de Wit was commissioned to come south to paint murals at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baton Rouge. Unable to return home to Europe due to World War II, de Wit then came to Covington where he was commissioned by Abbot Columban at Saint Joseph Abbey. After painting murals in the refectory, he continued to paint the inside of the church in entirety for ten years creating a cohesive liturgical narrative on the walls and ceiling, which are still on there today. 

The St. Tammany Art Association is located at 320 N. Columbia Street, Covington, LA 70433. Our gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am – 4 pm and Saturday 11 am – 4 pm. All exhibitions are free and open to the public unless otherwise indicated.

St. Tammany Art Association is supported by the generosity of our 2018 Season of the Arts sponsors and by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, as administered by the St. Tammany Parish Commission on Cultural Affairs. Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works.