Renowned artist Adrian Martinez has created a painting to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Anthony’s Lodge.
“I was asked if I’d like to do a painting of the centennial,” Martinez said. “I said ‘I would love to; it would be an honor.’ For a number of years, I lived in the Johnsontown section of Downingtown, close to St. Anthony’s. My family spent our summers at the lodge’s pool.”
Martinez is an internationally known artist who has had a number of shows throughout the region. His most recent series of paintings depicted Humphry Marshall, an important 18th-century botanist, and was displayed at the Chester County Historical Society for a year. Martinez is currently working on paintings of the American Revolution’s Battle of Brandywine.
“The lodge didn’t give me any limitations on the painting or any instructions,” Martinez said. “They had hundreds of black and white photographs of members – families go back three or more generations there – and events held at St. Anthony’s. The officials believed those snapshots would give me a feeling of the total history of the organization.”
Those photographs gave Martinez the idea for a painting.
“I saw an image of a St. Anthony’s Day parade from the 1930s,” he said. “The scene was a procession from the old church to the lodge. This procession took place yearly for 50 years. I thought, why not capture members from all generations in one procession? Some of the snapshots were small and blurry, but I decided to use specific individuals. How could I resist those great Italian faces? It was difficult but I wanted to capture them.”
Martinez made a large sketch and shared it with the board of St. Anthony’s.
“The reaction was amazing,” he said. “Members were recognizing their grandfathers and parents and siblings. The response was very moving. I made the focal point of the painting a member with a huge ribbon on his suit. He was leading the procession in maybe the 1930s. I didn’t know who he was but later found out he was one of the founders of St. Anthony’s. He was a translator for those in the community who didn’t know English. He was an important community person.”
By looking at the photographs, Martinez said he began peeling back layers of history, just as one does when peeling an onion.
“The process for this painting went far beyond what I imagined,” he said. “When I do projects, I immerse myself in the subject matter, and with St. Anthony’s, this process was both exciting and rewarding since I have such a strong connection to the subject matter.”
Martinez’s painting will be unveiled at a dinner at St. Anthony’s on Nov. 8. He will be speaking during the function. The painting will then be displayed in the lodge.