Church Reclaims Oil Paintings of Saints

Cantlon, Cleo. "Church Reclaims Oil Paintings of Saints." Minot Daily News, n.d.

Karlsruhe - Two 70-year-old paintings of Saints Peter and Paul again hang near the altar of the Karlsruhe Catholic church, thanks to a parish committee and Minot artist Judy Bell.

Life-size paintings of the church's patron saints were completed in 1915 by Count Berthold Von Imhoff.

The count, who began painting when he was 7, won the Berlin Art Academy award when he was 16. He came to North America from Karlsruhe, Germany, when he was 24 and settled at St. Walburg, Saskatchewan, in 1913.

When he died in 1939 Von Imhoff left more than 200 paintings behind, including many in a museum at St. Walburg. He said he enjoyed painting at Karlsruhe because it reminded him of home.

The North Dakota parish also enjoyed the renditions of their patron saints. But in the 1960s, the church was remodeled and the pictures, which had been attached directly to the walls, were ripped down and put aside.

Maggie Mack, head of the 1992 redorating committee, said at first the paintings were folded up and stored in the boiler room on top of the furnace. Then parishioner Eddie Bossert rescued them and stored them at his farm another 30 years, until Mack's group persisted in having them evaluated.

The parish council decided not to use church operating funds to cover the $2,500 needed for restoration and framing, the Rev. Joseph Senger, pastor of the mission parish at Karlsruhe, said. But the money was raised through a special feast day dinner and quilt raffle.

Mack's committee contacted former parishioner Tim Greenheck of Minot, who operates a gallery and framing shop. He sent them to Judy Bell, an artist who has also restored art works over the past several years.

"These were the biggest pieces I'd ever worked on," Bell said, "and they looked pretty hopeless in the beginning. They were cracked where they had been folded, and canvas beneath the paint was deteriorating."

Besides having spent 30 years in storage, the paintings had initially shared the church with a wood stove which added a layer of soot over them.

bell had to do the cleaning and restoration in her garage, both because of their 9-foot height and the toxic chemicals necessary for cleaning.

"I found wonderful color underneath," she commented. Bell also admired the interesting scrollwork Von Imhoff painted around each portrait.

She repaired the damage, re-lined the canvases, finished out the tops of pictures to fit on Greenheck's new square wooden frames, and varnished them.

Bell and Greenheck also were working against a deadline, which they met: the restored paintings were hung in time to celebrate feast days for Saints Peter and Paul in Karlsruhe June 29, 1992.

Reprinted with permission of the Minot Daily News.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller