The beauty of many old churches (particularly cathedrals, basilicas, etc.) is in their architecture as well as in their religious art, whether it is the many large frescoes or the exquisite stained glass windows that adorn them. The late (1885-1973) Italian-Canadian artist and stained glass master Guido Nincheri has enjoyed a recent resurgence of interest, thanks to his grandson Roger Bocchini Nincheri who has been tirelessly photographing and cataloging his grandfather’s hundreds of existing works. (See the 2011 article “Saving Works of God” in the National Post for more on this)Now, Montreal’s Véhicule Press has released Mélanie Grondin’s The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri which will serve to promote Mr. Nincheri to an even wider audience; particularly those not fortunate enough to live near any of his many existing works (which are in all the Canadian provinces except Manitoba and can be found in six eastern states in the U.S.) Ms. Grondin has included a complete list of these works in the back of the book as a guide for those who wish to view them for themselves. Here in New Brunswick, we are favoured with an abundance of his decorations, murals and stained glass work from Edmunston to Black’s Harbour. Right here in Miramichi, both St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newcastle (4 stained glass windows) and St. Michael’s Basilica in Chatham (2 stained glass windows) boast his beautiful productions.
Here is a sample of those in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church:
Ms. Grondin’s book is exceptional not only because it is the first full-length book dealing with the man and his works, but it excels at explaining the various styles and media Mr. Nincheri worked with which was very helpful for this reader to understand. An examination of his life, both in Italy, but primarily in Canada and the U.S. helps us to understand this “being that was warm, devoted, calm and respectful.”
However, life did not always treat him kindly. Despite living to the age of 87, he was never in good health, and spending time painting frescoes and murals in cold, drafty cathedrals (sometimes while laying on his painful spine) took its toll. During the Second World War, he was even unjustly incarcerated (for being a fascist) in an internment camp in Petawawa Ontario for he once, against his wishes, asked include an image of Mussolini in one of his frescoes in the Madonna della Difesa church in Montreal (which is a National Historic Site).
Ms. Grondin’s interest in Nincheri began when she became friends with the artist’s great-granddaughter Tracy Bocchini Nincheri, daughter of the aforementioned Roger Bocchini Nincheri. She was “hooked” when she visited his studio and saw a completed stained glass work up close, rather than mounted on a distant wall:
“Although I can’t truthfully say that I was filled with religious devotion, I did get a sense of how beautiful religious images can arouse piety. Certainly, something in me did stir: admiration and a sense of peace brought about by looking at a beautiful, balanced, perfect artistic creation – a sense that there is much that is right in the world in the face of such a magnificent work of art. I was hooked! I new I had to learn more about Guido Nincheri and his art.”
Ms. Grondin’s book is beautifully composed and packaged by Véhicule Press from the gatefold cover to the two full-colour inserts and many black and white photographs of the man, his studio, his employees and his family. Printed on quality paper stock and using highly legible Minion and Perpetua typesets, The Art and Passion of Guido Nincheri has found a permanent home on my bookshelf, alongside other books pertaining to art. I rated it 5 stars at Goodreads, and I am putting it on my 2018 long list for a “Very Best!” Book Award in the Non-Fiction category.