Roseman and Davis returned to La Trappe later that summer after sojourns at the Abbey of Solesmes, along the River Sarthe; and the Abbey of Le Bec, in Normandy. From La Trappe, they traveled south to the Abbey of Fleury, along the Loire; and the Abbey of Cîteaux, in Burgundy, before going on to monasteries in Spain.
"On the afternoon of June 4th, with the dates for our sojourn confirmed, Ronald and I arrived at the Abbey of La Trappe, situated in the rural countryside of Normandy. The tall, neo-Gothic church tower rose above the complex of living quarters, workshops, guest house, gatehouse, and numerous farm buildings that accommodated a dairy herd, a main source of income for the monastery.
At the outset of their journey in the spring of 1978, Roseman and Davis were invited to their first Trappist monastery, Mount St. Bernard Abbey, Leicestershire. There Roseman created a series of impressive paintings of the monks, which includes Father Ian, Portrait of a Trappist Monk in Meditation, "an absolutely captivating work'' writes the distinguished curator Pierre Barousse in acquiring the painting for the Musée Ingres, Montauban. The painting is seen on the page "The Monastic Life,'' (fig. 8), relating the artist's work that spring and summer at St. Augustine's Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in Ramsgate, and Mount St. Bernard Abbey.
Returning to La Trappe in 2002, Roseman was thoughtfully offered a painting studio. The result of several months' work is a series of superb paintings of members of the community. Frère Samuel, Portrait of a Trappist Monk in Prayer, is presented at the top of the page, and Frère Tarsicius, Portrait of a Trappist Monk in Prayer, is seen here, (fig. 2). The paintings are also presented below on this page, along with a further selection of the artist's work and accompanying commentary.
"Armand-Jean Le Bouthillier de Rancé, born in 1626 of an aristocratic family, pursued an ecclesiastical career as his family had intended for him. However, in his thirties, Rancé felt a calling to the contemplative life. After a few years of reflection, which included a visit to La Trappe in the summer of 1658, he divested himself of his properties and benefices; received royal permission to transfer his hereditary title of commendatory abbot of La Trappe to that of regular abbot; entered the novitiate at the Abbey of Perseigne, near Alençon; and, after a year, made his monastic profession. In 1664, Rancé returned to the Abbey of La Trappe.
The eminent American collector John Davis Hatch, Co-founder and first Director of Master Drawings Association, acquired the portrait of Frère Samuel along with the artist's portrait of Padre Hipólito, 1979, from the Trappist Abbey of San Pedro de Cardeña, Spain, and a drawing of Frère Christian at work in the kitchen, 1979, whom Roseman drew at the Benedictine Abbey of Fleury, France.
1. Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris (Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996), p. 11.
2. The Rule of St. Benedict and explanations on the text in Households of God, trans. Abbot David Parry, O.S.B.,
(London: Darton, Longman &Todd, London, 1980), pp. 180, 181.
3. The Oxford scholar and Benedictine monk Dom Bernard Green read a draft of Roseman's manuscript and wrote in a gracious letter
to the artist: "You portray the background and the aims of life in monasteries so well, showing such a deep understanding of the monastic life.''
4. L'Abbaye Notre Dame de la Grande-Trappe, authored anonymously by a monk of La Trappe, (Orne: Montligeon, 1926), pp. 65, 76, 78.
5. Louis J. Lekai, The Cistercians (Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1977), pp. 188, 189.
6. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), p. 1068.
In the superb painting Frère Tarsicius, Portrait of a Trappist Monk in Prayer, (fig. 11), Roseman describes the monk's cowl with brushstrokes of creamy white pigment and translucent passages of pearly grays, pinks, and pale blues, with reserved areas of the ochre ground enhancing the warm tonality of the composition. A soft, natural light illuminates the monk's cranium and face surrounded by the large hood of his cowl.
"Père Hugues, a kindly man and dear friend, prepared a sizable room as a studio for me. The room contained some of the monastery's old farm tools, carpentry tools, and other work implements the Prior was safeguarding as a collection. Included were several antique pressing irons which, as I mentioned to Père Hugues, reminded me of those collected by my father in memory of his own father, who had been a tailor on New York City's Lower East Side.
Frère Tarsicius in Prayer, (fig. 12), is a dramatic composition of the Trappist monk enveloped in his voluminous, white cowl. The elderly monk, his face partly in shadow under his large hood, is depicted in a strong light with the seated figure in relief against a summary background of earth colors.
"Père Christian, a gentle, caring man," writes Roseman of his friend, "was for thirty years the Abbey's infirmarian - a word derived from monastic history, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains: 'In mediaeval monasteries, the person who had charge of the infirmary.'
Roseman renders the monk's face with fine chiaroscuro modeling, luminous highlights, and warm shading. Père Christian, as does his brother, wears a thin moustache and a goatee, a rarity in the monastic world for monks are usually clean-shaven or full-bearded. The work habit is painted with soft brushstrokes that suggest the texture of the brown, woolen material complemented by the earth tones of the background.
6. Travels to Sweden and Denmark
3. Historic Regions of Monasticism
in Bavaria and Swabia
Monastic Journey Continued
On the bottom of this page are links to pages 2 - 8.
2. Returning to the Netherlands
7. Convents in Piedmont
1. A Painting Studio
at the Abbey of La Trappe
8. Monasteries in Old Castile
With an open invitation from La Trappe, Roseman and Davis kept in communication with the monastery through Frère Élie and returned again in October 1979. In further correspondence Frère Élie, on behalf of Abbot Gérard, again kindly invited the two friends back to the monastery. However, in the spring of 1980 Roseman and Davis returned to the United States as Davis' mother had fallen terminally ill with cancer. In the summer of 1981 the two friends returned to Europe for Roseman to resume his work on the monastic life. Frère Élie cordially writes in autumn of 1982: "I read with pleasure that you intend to visit La Trappe again in the near future. All of us will welcome you heartily and in the meantime, send you our very best wishes. Affectionately Frère Élie."