Statue of Mary by Bela Pratt
The statue of Mary in the Annunciation shrine is by Bela Pratt (1867-1917). At age 16, Pratt began studying at Yale University School of Fine Arts. After graduating from Yale, Pratt enrolled at the Art Students League of New York where he took classes from Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1891) who became his mentor. Saint-Gaudens was the Irish-born American sculptor of the Beaux-Arts generation who, according to Wikipedia, most embodied the ideals of the "American Renaissance". After working in Saint-Gaudens’ private studio, Pratt traveled to Paris. In 1893, he began a 25-year career as a teacher of modeling at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. During this time he sculpted a series of busts of Boston’s intellectual community. Episcopal priest Phillips Brooks (1899, Brooks House, Harvard University), Colonel Henry Lee (1902, Memorial Hall, Harvard University), and Boston Symphony Orchestra founder Henry Lee Higginson (1909, Symphony Hall, Boston). He became an associate of the National Academy in 1900.
Pratt continued Saint-Gaudens' influence in coin design after 1907. His gold Indian Head half ($5) and quarter ($2.50) eagles are known as the "Pratt coins" and feature an unusual intaglio Indian head, the U.S. mint's only recessed design in circulation. See Wikipedia. for more detail.
According to Father Frank Sabatté, there is a mistaken notion that there are works by August Saint-Gaudens in the church. There are no works of his in the church, but there are a number of works by his students and studio assistants who went on to become noted sculptors in their own right. These include: Bela Pratt, Frederick MacMonnies, Philip Martiny and Charles Keck. Stanford White did some of the principal interior architecture and often collaborated with Saint Gaudens, which would have led to the contact with the above sculptors.
Today, the church is active in working with artists, sponsoring art exhibits at the church, providing networking opportunities, and fostering dialog in the artistic community. Openings NY, a project of the Paulist Fathers for artists, has regular exhibits (generally at the church) exploring broad spiritual themes. A recent exhibit explored the elusive mystery of spirit, body, and soul through a variety of visual media, including photography, painting, drawing, mixed media, and sculpture while another featured the work of Iraqi refugees. Frank Sabatté is the director of Openings NY. Frank is an artist and Paulist father and his work is presented on his website. Frank kindly provided me with detailed information on the church that I have used in this gallery.