The Saint Vincent Gallery will present a special exhibition, Brother Cosmas Wolf, O.S.B.: Monk, Architect, Sculptor, Designer, from Friday, Nov. 1 to Thursday, Feb. 28. The exhibit will open with a reception from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. Admission is free and open to the public.
Gallery hours are 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays from Nov. 1 to Dec. 8 and Jan. 14 to Feb. 28. The Gallery is closed on Mondays and Nov. 27 to Dec. 1. The Gallery is open by appointment only from Dec. 10 to Jan. 12.
Brother Cosmas Wolf, O.S.B., was a Benedictine lay-brother of Saint Vincent Archabbey who was active in the second half of the 19th century. He was a monk, architect, sculptor and designer. Studying sculpture in Munich, Brother Cosmas was trained under the old medieval apprentice system to become a master sculptor and designer/draftsman. He brought to America his talent and created a studio that built church furnishings and decorated dozens of churches in nine states.
His Covington Altar Building Stock Company was a prolific institution that fulfilled the needs of Catholic German-Americans throughout what is called the “German Triangle,” creating and designing everything from altars and statues, to croziers and sacred vessels. Brother Cosmas assembled some of the best church artists of the 19th century, including the painters Johann Schmitt and Wilhelm Lamprecht, to assist him in his work; and he took an apprentice by the name of Frank Duveneck, who became one of the most important artists and teachers in the American Impressionism movement.
Brother Cosmas relocated his studio in 1868 to Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, where he continued to work on his church designs, expanding his talents to include architecture. He designed multiple churches, monasteries, schools and even a house. The artistic vision of Archabbot Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., the founder of Saint Vincent, enabled Br. Cosmas to dedicate himself to his art for more than 30 years.
Although his life has been relatively unknown, his art has touched the lives of thousands of people. The Saint Vincent Gallery is hosting an exhibition to help make him better known, and for him to assume his proper place in the history of American church art and architecture. Brother Cosmas’s architectural renderings and design drawings, as well as carvings completed by him and his studio will be on display. Viewers will experience the artworks in an unique way: sculpture will be juxtaposed with their preliminary ink and pencil sketches, and a set of statues will rejoin their mates (for the first time in 55 years) to recreate Brother Cosmas’ last artistic triumph, the magnificent altarpiece from Saint Vincent’s Old Choir Chapel. Of particular note is an early exterior proposal for the Saint Vincent Archabbey Basilica.