Tuesday, October 10, 2017


On the feast of the Holy Rosary, I posted a very modern, very lovely painting by an artist I had never heard of, but I think deserves mention. She was SISTER MARY of the COMPASSION, a Dominican nun born Mary Constance  Rowe in 1908. 

She was the daughter of Victor Weston Rowe, a Music Hall Artiste and Melfredine Josephine Fournier Rowe. She showed great promise as an artist and, after the Clapham School of Art, studied at the Royal College of Art in London and won the Prix de Rome in 1932 for mural painting. The prize money gave her two years of further study in Rome. While there became interested in the Catholic faith and later took instructions at the Brompton Oratory (The Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) and was baptized there on 8 September 1931 as Constance Dorothy Mary Rowe.

In 1935  she traveled to New York only to find her way to Union City, a place where she would remain for the rest of her life.  She entered the Community of the Dominican Nuns of the Perpetual Rosary, also known as the Blue Chapel, in Union City, N.J. in 1938.

Sister Mary worked in many media types including textile, mosaic, and clothing. Her paintings include use of water colors, oil, and gold leaf  on textures such as paper and wood. Echoing the style of Renaissance painters before her, Sister Mary painted portraits of the Madonna and important events such as Christ's removal from the cross.

One of her major works was a painting of Dominican saints surrounding a crucified Christ. The life-size painting (8 by 4 feet) is currently housed at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.

According to Sister Maria of the Cross of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit; Sister Mary was commissioned by the House of Studies during the '50s to paint an artwork there. The painting adorns the refectory of the house, regarded by some as the largest, most ambitious painting embarked on by Sister Mary.

Pictures of hers were included in a 1939 New York exhibition of work by Catholic artists staged for the benefit of refugees who had arrived in the USA from Germany. Another of her ventures was the design of costumes and sets for an opera performed by the Music Department of Hunter College, New York. She also wrote a short book called “An Artist's Notebook”, in which she gave her thoughts on how art should be approached and how she approached it, offering occasional comments on the work of some artists. 

Jesus with Mary Magdalene
Sister Mary of the Compassion died in 1977 after a medical checkup a week prior deemed "nothing wrong" with her. She died at the age of 69. 

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