''No one, I believe, in 1,500 years of Christian monachism has catalogued, defined
and described so clearly or so beautifully the business of the monastic life.
No writer, no sculptor, no painter, no architect has refined a distillation so pure,
so accurate, so breathtakingly clear as Roseman has done.''
- The Times, London
When Roseman began his work in the monasteries in the late 1970's, monastic life was little known to the general public and an unfamiliar subject for a modern artist's work. Monastic life was rarely a topic for coverage in the popular press. Unlike today, monasteries then were closed to television cameras and documentary filmmakers, and the Internet, with its vast information resources, did not exist. Roseman's paintings and drawings brought a new awareness of the centuries-old and far-reaching contemplative tradition in Western culture.
The Abbot Primate of the Order of St. Benedict, Dom Victor Dammertz, OSB, invited Roseman and Davis as his guests at the abbot's residence, the Badia Primaziale Sant'Anselmo, in Rome, in winter of 1979. The Abbot Primate was greatly encouraging to Roseman for his work. In letter to the Vatican, the Abbot Primate writes:
"Nevertheless, in Western Art monastic life accounts for a small percentage of the extensive imagery on religious subject matter. From the thirteenth century there grew a popular demand for pictures of saints of the newly founded mendicant orders, which include the Order of Friars Minor, or Franciscans; Order of Friars Preachers, or Dominicans; Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or Carmelites; and the Austin Friars. Franciscan and Dominican friars were especially common to the cityscape and actively sought contact with society in contrast to those who sought the contemplative life behind the monastery walls.''
Roseman's ecumenical work, brought to realization in the enlightenment of Vatican II, depicts monks and nuns of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran faiths. Roseman created his work in over sixty monasteries throughout England, Ireland, and Continental Europe. The artist writes in a text to accompany his work:
Dom Henry, Portrait of a Benedictine Monk, 1978, (fig. 3), was painted at the outset of Roseman's sojourns in the monasteries. The magnificent painting was acquired in 1986 by the Chief Curator of the Museums of France, François Bergot, for the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen, of which he was the Director. In a cordial letter to Roseman, the Chief Curator of the Museums of France expresses, "my admiration for this work of art of profound insight and spirituality."
A major part of Roseman's work on the monastic life is expressed in the medium of drawing, considered the foundation of the visual arts. The celebrated, sixteenth-century Florentine architect, painter, and author Giorgio Vasari writes that drawing (disegno) is ''the parent of our three arts, Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting, having its origin in the intellect.''
"The canonical hours, called the Divine Office, are founded on singing the Psalms. 'Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise,' from Psalm 51, begins Vigils, the first and traditionally the longest Office, sung to keep watch in the night. At dawn, the Psalms for Lauds offer renewal and hope; at day's end, the Psalms for Compline bless the Lord and ask God for protection in the dark."
"The monastery bell tolls the Night Office, or Vigils, and the daytime Offices of Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, and None, Vespers in the late afternoon, and Compline at the end of the day.
At Subicao, Roseman was invited to draw Abbot Emeritus Don Egidio Gavazzi, (fig. 7, below). The Abbot, from a prominent family in Lombardy, had been an engineer whose calling to the monastic life brought him to Subiaco. He became Coadjutor Abbot in 1951 and Abbot the following year. He was a Councillor Father at the Second Vatican Council, and with first-hand knowledge he guided the community of Benedictine monks at Subiaco during the historic changes resulting from Vatican II. Abbot Egidio retired in 1974 at the age of 70, revered as a holy man.
The Director of the National Gallery of Art, J. Carter Brown, cordially writes to Roseman on May 7, 1981, to say that the Museum's Board of Trustees at their meeting that day "gratefully accepted" the artist's "generous offer" to make a gift of his drawing from the Abbey of Solesmes in loving memory of his father, Bernard Roseman. The eminent Director concludes his letter of appreciation to the artist:
- J. Carter Brown, Director
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
The Albertina exhibition presented a selection of Roseman's drawings representative of the two forms of monastic observance in the Western Church: the cenobitic, or communal life, followed by Benedictines, Cistercians, and Trappists; and the eremitic, or solitary life, followed by Carthusians. The artist's drawings in the exhibition were created in monasteries in England, Ireland, and on the Continent from 1978 to 1983.
1. The quoted excerpts are from a text Roseman has written on monastic life and his work in monasteries to accompany his paintings and drawings.
The Oxford scholar and Benedictine monk Dom Bernard Green read a draft of Roseman's manuscript and wrote in a gracious letter to the artist:
"You portray the background and the aims of life in monasteries so well, showing such a deep understanding of the monastic life.''
2. Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1927), pp. 32, 33.
3. St. Augustine's Abbey, Ramsgate, is no longer a Benedictine Monastery. In 2010, the monastic community relocated to new premises in Surrey.
4. Giorgio Vasari, Vasari on Technique, (New York: Dover Publications, Inc.), p. 205.
5. The Psalter is comprised of one hundred and fifty Psalms. Psalms 10 to 148 in the Hebrew Bible are one number ahead of the Greek Septuagint
and Latin Vulgate Bibles. The Greek and the Vulgate combine Psalms 9 and 10 as well as Psalms 114 and 115 while separating into two parts
each Psalm 116 and Psalm 148. The Rule of St. Benedict uses the numbering of the Psalms in the Vulgate Bible.
6. Psalm 51 in the Hebrew Bible is numbered Psalm 50 in the Vulgate.
7. Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris (text in French and English), Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996, p. 10.
8. "Early Medieval Music,'' New Oxford History of Music, ed. Dom Anselm Hughes, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954), Vol. II, p. 101.
9. Ibid., pp. 1, 93, 94.
10. David Knowles, Great Historical Enterprises, (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd, 1962), pp. 35-62.