Painting resoration 1_crop1

Restoring Fredericksburg’s forgotten history

By Madalyn Watson
Standard-Radio Post reporter

After being tucked away in the attics and basements of Fredericksburg, two paintings are being restored to join over 60 pieces of artwork that will make up the “The Art of Fredericksburg: 175 Years” exhibit, in celebration of Fredericksburg’s 175th Anniversary celebration.

“Crucifixion” painted by Rev. Peter Tarillion
34″ x 36″

Expanding on the book released to celebrate the City of Fredericksburg’s 150th Anniversary, the exhibit is set to be open to the public in May at the George H.W. Bush Gallery of the National Museum of the Pacific War.

“St. Joseph” and “Crucifixion,” both painted by Fredericksburg priest the Rev. Peter Tarrillion, survive today but are in extremely poor condition.

German-born Tarrillion fell in love with the Hill Country when he first visited Fredericksburg in 1856, nine years after the city was first settled.

When he became the pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1867, he stayed for 32 years. 

Although he never considered himself an artist, Tarrillion created three paintings, each on large canvases, 34×56 inches in size, when the church needed inexpensive decorations. 

The paintings hung on the walls of the original St. Mary’s Catholic Church until it was torn down to build a grotto. The paintings moved from different places in storage so much, that only two remain today.

Moved from under the stage in St. Joseph’s Halle to the attic belonging to a member of the St. Joseph’s Society, the paintings were in extreme states of disrepair.

Described as a “legendary figure in the history of religion and visual arts in Fredericksburg” by the book compiled by the 150th Anniversary Committee, Tarrillion’s legacy was left to collect dust.

“We made this a part of our goal for the exhibit … to save some Fredericksburg artwork that’s been hidden away,” Marty Kaderli said.

Kaderli, a member of the City of Fredericksburg’s 175th Anniversary Committee, said the upcoming art exhibit rejuvenated an interest in Tarrillion’s artwork.

The committee has been working on the art exhibit for nearly two years, and they wanted to include the paintings — but returned to their former glory.

“[The paintings] were taken down and stored in attics, basements and under the stage at St. Joseph’s,” Kaderli said. “There are tears in them and little BB gun holes that are going to be repaired.”

“St. Joseph” and “Crucifixion” were sent to Dennis Baltuskonis, the co-founder of Baltuskonis Art Conservation in San Antonio.

“These paintings were in pretty bad shape,” Baltuskonis said. “They’ve been worked on before. But there’s no documentation.”

”St. Joseph”’ painted by Rev. Peter Tarillion
34″ x 36″

Baltuskonis said someone had tried to touch up and restore the paintings in the past, so a lot of the work was fixing this part of the painting to the best of his ability.

“You can’t reverse all that stuff,” Baltuskonis said. “We’re trying to stabilize the painting.”

The paintings remain on their original frames, which were hung with a horseshoe that remains attached.

“I’ve talked them into using new stretcher bars because these are made out of yellow pine and they’re old and brittle. The wood is all splintery and difficult to work with as it is because yellow pine is such a hard wood,” Baltuskonis said. “But we’re going to put the original frames back on.”

Kaderli said she hopes they can find a place for the paintings to hang after the temporary art exhibit ends that returns them to their former glory.

“It must be amazing to be able to do what [Baltuskonis] does. To take some dirty, old, poor-conditioned piece of artwork and just shine it up,” Kaderli said. 

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