Local Artist Neilson Carlin Commissioned By Archdiocese To Paint The Holy Family

POPE-ARTIST17P Neilson Carlin, sits in his studio in Kennett Square, PA. Carlin was commissioned to paint the Holy Family to promote the upcoming World Meeting of Families.(Jonathan Wilson / For the Inquirer)

The Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families, scheduled for Philadelphia in September, will feature the work of a local artist. Neilson Carlin was asked by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to paint the official portrait for the event which is expected to draw over a million people from around the world.

Carlin finished the Icon image of the holy family last year.
Carlin finished the Icon image of the holy family last year.

According to a feature in Tuesday’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Carlin converted to Catholicism while engaged to his wife Colleen, a devout Catholic. Originally dreaming of being a comic book artist, he now devotes his time and talent to creating sacred art for churches and shrines in addition to a teaching business he runs in his Kennett Square studio.

Carlin received the assignment in early 2014 and the Inquirer quotes him as saying “It’s a blessing.”

Wanting a local artist and being familiar with his work, Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre said to the Inquirer “We were looking for someone whose work was beautiful, but also would inspire feelings of love and devotion for the Holy Family.”

Carlin worked on the painting from January through August 2014. The Archdiocese presented the piece in September and has been using the image to promote the gathering. It is a 4-by-5 foot oil painting which depicts Mary, Joseph, a toddler Jesus and Mary’s parents. The original hangs in Center City at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

Carlin and his wife Colleen have three children and recognize the significance of the assignment, with the Inquirer quoting Colleen as saying “We both understood immediately the enormity of what was being asked of him.”

Carlin has seen a nice boost to his teaching business from the publicity he has received, with the Inquirer noting that attendance has spiked from 25 students to 40 per semester. He has several projects in the works, including a painting for the Church of St. Mary in Schwenksville.

The family plans to attend the World Meeting of Families Mass which will be lead by Pope Francis. Carlin hopes that the portrait will be well-received and that it will convey the desired message of unity and sanctity of family.

You can read more about Carlin and his work on the piece here.

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