EUGENE KAZIMIROWSKI (1934) - Not totally convinced, but curious to see what it would look like, Father Michael Sopocko, Confessor and Spiritual Director of St. Faustina, commissioned Eugene Kazimirowski to paint the image. Beginning on January 2, 1934, and continuing every two weeks thereafter, the superior allowed Sister Faustina to work with the artist in order to direct the painting. Father Sopocko was the only other person to hear Sister Faustina’s instructions. When Sister Faustina saw that the painting was not as beautiful as the Jesus of her vision, she felt disturbed and brought her disappointment to the chapel. There she wept and wept. She asked Jesus who will paint Him as beautiful as He is. Jesus answered, “Not in the beauty of the color, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.” (Diary, 313) The painting was completed in June 1934 and was placed in the corridor of the convent of the Bernardine Sisters near the church of St. Michael, where Father Michael Sopocko was pastor.
ADOLF HYLA (1943) – Sometime in 1943, Adolf Hyla, a Polish painter, approached the superior of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in their Cracow House in Poland, and offered to paint some sort of picture for the sister’s chapel as a votive offering for having survived the war. The superior Mother Irene Krzynowska, after consulting with the senior sisters and Fr. Andrasz, S.J., suggested that Mr. Hyla should paint the Image according to Sister Faustina’s directions. For that purpose, he was given the description (taken form Sister Faustina’s Diary) along with a copy of the image painted by Eugene Kazimirowski. The image was finished in autumn of 1943, and was brought to the Cracow house. Cardinal Sapieha blessed the image and odered that it be hung in the convent’s chapel. (Footnote#1 Diary). The Hyla version measuring 5.40 meters by 3.00 meters beautifully bedecks the Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy altar area. It is the largest of its kind in the entire Philippines. When you gaze at it, it exudes the Merciful Love that you deserve regardless from which part of the church you look at it.
ROBERT SKEMP (1982) – The Marian Fathers cmmissioned a portrait artist, Mr. Robert O. Skemp to paint another image based on the diary, and on the exact account written by Fr. Michael Sopocko (Sr. Faustina’s Confessor & Spiritual Director). Fr. Sopocko was the one who commissioned the painter, Eugene Kazimirowski, and heard Sister Faustina’s description of her vision of the image itself, and witnessed the actual painting of the image in 1934. Mr. Skemp worked under the direction of Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, M.I.C., who was the Vice Postulator for North America for the cause of the beatification of Sister Faustina in 1982. the Skemp version of the Image of the Divine Mercy was completed in 1982. This version also became popular
Compiled by Sis. Maiette Zee Se Ki, Coordinator of PLDM’s Divine Mercy Apostolate from: Divine Mercy Message and Devotion Booklet, The New Evangelization For Family Devotion on Mercy, Guidelines for Divine Mercy Evangelizers, and I Thirst booklet.
FR. ARMAND AND The DIVINE MERCY PAINTING
By Bro. Bong Rillo and Bro. Julian Rillo
One source of unmatched pride for PLDM is the Divine Mercy painting that dominates the altar area at the Church sanctuary. One of the largest, if not the largest, of its kind in the country (and reputed to be even bigger than the original in Poland that inspired it), the painting is easily 10-times larger than life and, by its sheer size, suffuses the whole Church with its twin-rays of Mercy and Compassion. It is a sight to behold from the main entrance, an inspiring presence up close.
This article looks behind the canvas and, leaving no brush stroke unchecked, brings out the story of this creation. I had prayed for this assignment and went into it with great excitement and anticipation.
The Setting. The interview was set on a Tuesday in February 2019. My son and I were led to a small mezzanine loft overlooking a room filled with large-sized artworks. The office or workshop wall was practically covered with mementoes and framed paintings done by our subject, including press clips of his exhibits and his brushes with celebrities like Dawn Zulueta, Sharon Cuneta and Richard Gomez. A portrait of President Cory in yellow with Mama Mary at her back, hung on the wall behind the desk. An unfinished portrait of a familiar business and political figure rested on an easel in another cubicle, waiting for more brush strokes.
The Artist. Rev. Fr. Armand Abeleda Tangi is the artist. He is a member of the Religious of the Society of St. Paul or SSP. Born in Lubang, Occidental Mindoro on 28 August 1954, he is the youngest of 6 siblings: 3 boys and 3 girls. He obtained his degree in Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines where he also took up Architectural Drafting for 2 years. He took Graphic Arts at the Worcester School of Arts in Massachusetts, USA, and earned degrees in AB Philosophy at the Divine Word Seminary at Tagaytay City and Theology at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati. He was ordained into the priesthood on 8 December 1983.
At present, he is the Director of the Art Department and Mini Media of the Society of St. Paul.
The Interview. Fr. Armand literally lit up the moment we began discussing his works. Noted for his signature Emmanuel Series where Jesus Christ is depicted as an ordinary person, I asked how he came upon his style, humanizing our Lord. He giddily explained that the target of his paintings was the youth: “When I presided at house blessings, I noticed that rooms of the children were adorned with posters of rock stars or sports idols. I decided to make religious paintings that the young would relate to and ended up starting the Emmanuel Series – with our Lord Jesus dressed up for basketball, baseball or golf, riding on a motorcycle, texting or surfing on a cell phone; a back-to-barrios doctor, cab driver, commercial model, or just a plain, simple guy you meet on the street.”
Such depictions graced magazines and celebrity homes, even painted on jeepneys and fences. But they also drew criticism from the likes of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., who questioned the resulting “trivialization” in his art. In Fr. Armand’s defense, Fr. Catalino Arevalo, another prominent priest, asked for a caricature of the laughing Christ as he noted that many people couldn’t believe that Jesus is as human as anybody else.
Expounding on his art, Fr. Armand said, “Jesus attended weddings, so why should he not laugh? Happy occasions are joyful times to smile. The very reason why many are attracted to him was due to his sense of humor and his charisma.”
His art brought Fr. Armand to the attention of PLDM parishioners who sought him out for the icon project.
The Commissioning. PPC Coordinator Sis. Sylvia Posadas recounted how Fr. Gigi Yabut jump-started the project by getting Fr. Armand to begin the sketches in February 2004. Inspired by his work at the Sacred Heart Shrine in Makati, Fr. Armand did a full body depiction similar to the original in Poland.
While acknowledging that the original painting in Poland came from a genuine yet perhaps different interpretation by the artist commissioned by St. Faustina, Fr. Armand approached his work by showing the tender face of Jesus exuding the mercy that anyone gazing upon Him must feel.
In 2005, under Fr. Ronald Macale, the Divine Mercy image was finally unveiled. It replaced the simple cross without a corpus that used to adorn the altar. Mrs. Gloria Guiao, a PLDM parishioner, was instrumental in bringing about the painting.
The image measures 5.40 meters by 3.00 meters. It consists of segmented canvas sections installed, piece by piece, onto the central wall of the sanctuary. Linseed oil was meticulously applied after Fr. Armand put in the final touch, perched on scaffolds high above the altar.
The Focus of our Devotion. Now, years after Fr. Armand Tangi’s painting was hung in the church sanctuary, it remains the focus of our prayers to the Divine Mercy as it gazes with mercy and compassion on all who humbly seek it.