Cornelius Sullivan .com  


JOURNALIST, ART CRITIC updated July 10, 2014   

   Pieta 2014, Carrara Marble, life size.











Madonna and Child, Pietrasanta, Italy, Carrara Marble, 1998.



Mary, Artist's Daughter, Carrara Marble.

Rachel, Marble with oil paint.

Emerging Figure, Carrara Marble.







Apollo, marble, life size, private collection Miami, Florida.


Marble Portrait of Kathleen, 4' high, with the clay model.

Kathleen, Drawing for Marble, pencil, 9x12"

The Artist's Daughter, Kathleen, marble, 12" x 12", 1984.



Articles published in The Italian Insider Newspaper based in Rome and The Saint Austin Review in South Bend, Indiana.  

Sacred Art II, Sacred Art and Modernism  Presented at Honors Colloquium, Perspectives on Modern Art, March 19, 2014, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, Florida

Sacred Art    Published The Italian Insider January 20, 2014       Magnificent-M.P. Wonderful- M.N 

Drawing Saint Cecilia

Papal Conclave- Rome Photos 2013  






Supper at Emmaus, oil, 18 x 24 ", June 2014, private collection Ave Maria, Florida.

My artist friend from Boston, Carole Bolsey, has made an elegant, insightful comment on the painting, "Your Supper at Emmaus is touching and a very original expression—the real, ordinary men in their surprise are recognizable and humble, giving the moment real weight. And the evanescent Jesus is perfect, half in and half out of the picture, literally and figuratively." 

Luke 24

13 Now that very same day, two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem,

14 and they were talking together about all that had happened.

15 And it happened that as they were talking together and discussing it, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side;

16 but their eyes were prevented from recognising him.

17 He said to them, 'What are all these things that you are discussing as you walk along?' They stopped, their faces downcast.

18 Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, 'You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.'

19 He asked, 'What things?' They answered, 'All about Jesus of Nazareth, who showed himself a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and the whole people;

20 and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified.

21 Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have now gone by since it all happened;

22 and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning,

23 and when they could not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive.

24 Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.'

25 Then he said to them, 'You foolish men! So slow to believe all that the prophets have said!

26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?'

27 Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

28 When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on;

29 but they pressed him to stay with them saying, 'It is nearly evening, and the day is almost over.' So he went in to stay with them.

30 Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them.

31 And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight.

32 Then they said to each other, 'Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?' 

My two friends that posed for Emmaus are members of a small writer's group that recently met at my studio. I realized that although we may be talking about what one of us has written, an article, a short story, a novel, or a film script, there is always in our conversation a subtext that emerges by the end of the night, it is about our shared faith. And that is what prompted me to ask my friends to pose for the Supper at Emmaus. 

Upon seeing my painting of the Supper at Emmaus, a recent convert to Catholicism, said that it was important early in her conversion because she realized that it is an eye witness account. That is why I have always been drawn to the story. And it has always been a favored subject for artists because of the inherent drama of surprise and recognition.  

Traditionally artists have inserted their contemporaries into biblical narratives often in contemporary garb. My artists friends and my son initially posed for my Loaves and Fishes painting.  

In some biblical scenes I have used the raised perspective of a table top to draw the viewer into the picture. I try to make the viewer have the sensation of being there. And I want there to be a sense of  a cosmic event taking place, even though one may not know exactly what is happening.  

I am reminded of a quote that I have always liked, from a T.S. Eliot quartet,  The Dry Salvages, where he expresses the idea of how we can, in this life, only have fleeting glimpses of transcendent truths.  

The hint half guessed, the gift half understood is Incarnation.

Here the impossible union.

Of  spheres of existence is actual,

Here the past and future

Are conquered and reconciled, 

You may be part of the crowd in my Descent from the Cross and you may wonder what has happened. In the Loaves and Fishes I hope you sense that something dynamic is happening, you are there, and I want the fish to explode outward so the small number of fish and loaves may signify the multiplication to feed the multitude. And in Supper at Emmaus I want the viewer to feel the intimacy of the encounter.  


Descent from the Cross, oil, 16 x 20", Collection of the artist. 


Loaves and Fishes, oil, 50 x 72".

Beginning of Loaves and Fishes, oil.
































Sacred Art II, Sacred Art and Modernism  Presented at Honors Colloquium, Perspectives on Modern Art, March 19, 2014, Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, Florida

Sacred Art    Published The Italian Insider January 20, 2014       Magnificent-M.P. Wonderful- M.N 

Drawing Saint Cecilia

Papal Conclave- Rome Photos 2013


copyright Cornelius Edmund Sullivan 2014

More on the marble Pieta 2014-

This was written in 2006 when the sculpture was beginning. There is a Post Script from 2014 at the end of this discussion.  

Tradition and Innovation  

My Pieta is unique because of the innovation of the pose, because of using the block as part of the sculpture, and because of the special treatment of the marble. I say this not to establish myself as a Modernist, concerned only about the tyranny of  "the new", but because these factors situate the work historically and explain some of its formal characteristics. 

The Pose

I can think of no sculptures where Mary is looking at her dead son in this most direct way. There are Renaissance paintings that have a similar sentiment, if not the exact pose. My early Pieta takes its inspiration from Michelangelo's late Pieta, the Pieta Rondanini, on the right, the piece that he was working on six days before he died, at age almost eighty nine. Of particular significance are the two heads in the same direction expressing the emotional bond and also the verticality of the overall orientation of both sculptures.


The Block

 I have preserved the boulder and made the emergence of the figures out of the block a part of the meaning and content of the sculpture. Hence, it has aspects of an Entombment, a Lamentation, and A Deposition.

Michelangelo's unfinished carvings retain the strong presence of the block and speak directly about the carving process.  

                    The Young Captive and Atlas Captive respectively,  from the Academia in Florence reveal the masters carving technique of uncovering the figure within the block.

Rodin understood what Michelangelo had done with the relationship of figure to block although he himself was not a carver but rather a modeler in clay.

    This portrait, Thought, of his pupil and lover, Camile Claudel, sits on a large square marble block.

   This photograph of a portrait of the other woman in Rodin's life, Rose Beret, shows how in the background Rodin has supplied a plaster cast of the original clay portrait with a piece of wood fastened to show the overall shape of the marble block that he desired. In the foreground is the marble being carved by an artisan, an expert copyist. Although Rodin has understood the power of Michelangelo's work he has turned the process around and has made it an artificial process suited to the demands of his successful sculpture factory. Rodin made clay sculptures that were then copied in marble by artisans. He signed the marbles.

Another sculptor who has understood the essence of Michelangelo's sculpting method is Constantin Brancusi. The face emerges from the rough stone in the extraordinary Sleeping Muse from 1906. 


Then in 1909 Brancusi did another Sleeping Muse, on the right, ugh, this time in bronze. He then continued to make pure geometric forms in stone and in bronze and eventually he become a highly acclaimed Modern sculptor. He left his dreams of a figurative Modernism and became the slave of the quest for perfect shape and hence the darling of all who love the theory of art more than the art. He never again reached the brilliance of carving shown in the first marble muse.

The Finish 

The Italian sculptor, Medardo Rosso, also in Paris with Rodin and Brancusi in 1906, made his most well known work, Ecce Puer. He put wax over plaster producing a special surface. Apparently he influenced Rodin toward an impressionism (small i) in sculpture.



My Risen Christ , on the right, commissioned for Saint Zepherin's Church in Wayland, Massachusetts, has a  surface that was achieved by polishing the marble right over details to make flowing forms. These photographs show the before and after. It is surprising how many letters I have received saying how right his features are, even though they are not at all specific. Over the years I have evolved a technique of carving marble that is purely my own. I am free from trying to make marble look like cloth or any other material in a super realistic manner.  I  try to utilize the special reflective and refractive qualities of marble. The right finish for this new Pieta is still evolving.

PS- eight years later-

It seems akmost prescent talking about a Medardo Rosso finish because I only became satisfied with a Christ figure that is not distinct for lack of a better word, He is evanescent like a vision. It was a very long process of making clear details, not liking how that looked, and then using the special qualities of this marble to make something that looks right to me. She is in this world with us, He is not. The word my friend used to describe Jesus in my Supper at Emmaus painting is appropriate- evanescent- vanishing like a vapor.

Pieta 2014, Carrara Marble, life size.