Artist paints papal portraits for new seminary in D.C.

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Robert Daley was commissioned by Cardinal Donald Wuerl

Patricia Bartos
Senior Staff Writer

Area professional artist Robert Daley, who has painted portraits of local bishops, has just completed portraits of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to hang in a new seminary of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, former bishop of Pittsburgh, commissioned the works. He was set to offer Mass and bless the new Blessed John Paul II Seminary on Saturday, Oct. 22. The event falls on the feast day of the late pope and the anniversary of his installation as pope in 1978.

Daley received an invitation and plans to attend.

He is not yet certain where his 20-by-24-inch portraits will hang at the seminary, located at 145 Taylor Street, N.E., near The Catholic University of America campus.

Daley, a parishioner at Resurrection in Pittsburgh's Brookline neighborhood who operates his South Hills Art Center studio/gallery along Brookline Boulevard, has known Cardinal Wuerl for at least 20 years, when he commissioned Daley to create a portrait of his family.

Since then, Daley has done portraits of Cardinals Wright, John Dearden, Anthony Bevilacqua and Wuerl that hang at St. Paul Seminary in Crafton. He also did an additional portrait of Cardinal Wright that hangs in the American wing at the Vatican.

Cardinal Wuerl gave him the most recent commission this summer, and Daley delivered the papal portraits in early October.

"This was one of the most significant commissions I've ever received," he said. "I'm honored to think that Cardinal Wuerl thinks so much of my work."

Portraits make up the bulk of his work, and he has done hundreds of them, Daley said. They include images of corporate leaders, young children and families. He also does traditional paintings, landscapes and still lifes.

Daley earned a degree in studio arts at the University of Pittsburgh in 1972. He did freelance portrait work for several years before opening his studio/gallery in 1979. In those early days he also did framing and sold art supplies from the center.

He has served on the boards of the Pittsburgh Society of Artists and the South Hills Art League, and has exhibited and won honors in their annual shows.

Daley had a one-man show at the Griffith Gallery in Sewickley, and created a painting of the three firefighters killed in a local fire in 1996 for the memorial service on the first anniversary of their deaths.

He teaches a class at Baldwin United Presbyterian Church and earlier taught for 15 years in the Community College of Allegheny County's continuing education department. He is represented by Gillespie Gallery in Pittsburgh.

Daley's family includes his wife, Lorrie, stepdaughter Amy and her husband, Al, and granddaughter Alexa.

In Washington, Cardinal Wuerl formally established the new seminary, named in honor of the late pope, who was beatified in May. He announced plans in October 2010 and renovations should be completed this month.

The seminary will serve as a college-level pre-theology house of formation, with seminarians attending classes at the nearby Catholic University of America. The building formerly housed offices of the archdiocese's Catholic Standard and El Pregonero newspapers and the Office of Youth Ministry and Catholic Youth Organization. It originally was a friary for the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.

The seminary can accommodate 30 men. The seminarians took up residence in August.

The archdiocese has 67 men studying for the priesthood, including 29 in college and pre-theology studies.

It also operates the Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary, Redemptoris Mater, in Hyattsville, Md.

"Pope John Paul II was a special role model to so many people as an extraordinary priest, bishop and pope," Cardinal Wuerl said, adding that with the new seminary, "the young men who have been inspired to be part of the new evangelization may begin their formation right here at home and be an integral part of the local Catholic community in Washington from the beginning."