Cardinal James Gibbons
Augustus Vincent Tack, American, 1870-1949
Oil on canvas, circa 1901-1902
40 in. x 29 in.
The painting is by American artist Augustus Vincent Tack, a native of Pittsburgh and a pupil of Henry Mowbray and John LaFarge. Tack was a painter of portraits, murals, semi-abstract landscapes, and abstract works on spiritual themes. He taught at a number of art academies and at Yale University from 1910-1913. About 1914-1915 his work attracted the notice of Duncan Phillips, who became a close friend and patron. They also collaborated on the organization of the Allied War Salon of 1918. Many of Tack's abstract works remain in the Duncan Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C. Some critics have identified this work as a harbinger of the abstract expressionistic movement.
Cardinal James Gibbons
The portrait of Cardinal Gibbons displays a Neo-Impressionistic influence of the American Renaissance movement and reflects Tack's deep Catholicism and comprehension of life. At the same time, it portrays the enduring influence of the Cardinal, the radiant kindness of his spirit and the integrity of his wisdom.
Raised in New Orleans and educated in Baltimore, Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921) rose swiftly through the ranks of the Church. Displaying a great diplomacy and deep patriotism, his interest in national, state and municipal issues led President Theodore Roosevelt to remark to him in 1917 “taking your life as a whole, I think you now occupy the position of being the most respected and venerated and useful citizen of our country.” He served as ninth archbishop of Baltimore and was a loyal supporter of the Knights of Columbus.
It was Gibbons, as archbishop, who ordained K of C founder Father Michael J. McGivney into the priesthood in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Baltimore, December 23, 1877. As chancellor of The Catholic University of America, his praise of the Order was evidenced when Knights established a Chair of American History at the school and later, a $500,000 Endowment Fund. His support continued when the Knights launched its aid to servicemen in World War I.
In 1932, eleven years after his death and during the Order’s 50th anniversary, Knights erected a statue of Cardinal Gibbons in the nation’s capital. President and Mrs. Herbert Hoover attended the unveiling ceremonies, along with 20,000 Knights and Church and state dignitaries.