Few Yorkton citizens are aware that in their very own city exists one of the finest paintings of its kind in North America. The painting is in the dome of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Art critics have likened it, particularly in its soft matching colors, to the great religious paintings in Europe.
The painting covers the entire dome and has a curvature of over 62 feet. In 1941 an Ottawa art critic estimated the value of the painting at $35,000 or more.
It is the work of the late Stephen Meush, who died of a heart attack while on a fishing trip in Manitoba on June 21, 1951. Mr. Meush received his training in Lviv, Ukraine, and after three years of study in Italy he spent a year in Cracow, Poland, before coming to Canada 1932.
He was 36 years of age when he undertook the painting at St. Mary’s Church in September 1939. The task, which included a number of other paintings in the church, was completed in May 1941.
Similar to most artists, Mr. Meush worked only when inspired. There were days when he sat idly by with his thoughts, and then again he would work day and night without stopping to eat.
The top of the dome is 55 feet from the floor. The curvature required that the central figures, and the 157 angels and cherubs surrounding them, be painted in a distorted manner so that from floor level they would appear to be on a flat plane.
It was first necessary for the artist to visualize a central point on the diameter of the base of the curve and working from this point and a corresponding one on the floor, apply a series of geometric angles and logarithms to make his charcoal sketches. He spent two months making the projected drawings.
The main colors are the orange, indigo and dull red, as seen by Meush in Saskatchewan sunsets. Gallons of the best artists’ paints were applied, together with Meush’s own inks, which he was continuously seeking to improve. The paints penetrate to a depth of one-eighth of an inch to avoid injury should flakings of plaster fall away. The painting is further protected by many coats of varnish.
The painting is an original and represents the coronation of the Virgin Mary in heaven. The image stands out brightly and depicts God as “the Ancient of Days” (Daniel 7:9) blessing Mary. Jesus is depicted holding a crown over Mary’s head and the Holy Spirit is portrayed in the shape of a flying dove.
Surrounding the throne of God are 157 angels of different sizes. Below the feet of Mary, there is a sky-blue streamer with a yellow inscription bearing the words, “Hail, Virgin, Full of Grace, Queen of Heaven, Holy, Holy, Holy, Alleluia!”. Below the streamer there is an open book which reads: “Mary, Advocate, Protectress, and Perpetual Help of Christians.”
Around the dome are eight-sized angels. These were done with a spray gun and a pattern for each of the six colors. Other decorative work was done in a similar fashion.
Although the painting is the focal point of interest to the visitor, St. Mary’s Church contains other valuable paintings by outstanding artists. Rev Metzger painted the four Evangelists, one in each niche just beneath the dome.
The work of Stephen Meush can also be seen in the Ukrainian churches of St. Basil’s in Regina, SK, at Alvena, SK, Smuts, SK and Arran, SK, and in Transcona, Man.