Chas Fagan is the American artist responsible for the now-famous tapestry of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The same one that hung on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica when Pope Francis named her a saint in the eyes of the thousands of pilgrims in attendance that day and the rest of the world that watched the ceremony on television.
"The one that I just stopped completely at was a moment that was a candid photography in the newspapers with her and Pope John Paul II, where she is looking up to him, into his eyes, obviously. She was radiating. So, there I figured I had my little view of what Mother Teresa must have looked like to everyone else who met her.”
Despite the immense popularity the 22-by-28-inch oil-on-linen painting has amassed, it is not the first time Chas has been in the spotlight, especially when it comes to bringing religious figures to life.
Fagan is also an accomplished sculptor. A sculpture competition in Washington D.C. facilitated him with a lifetime opportunity that would one day lead to his life-like painting of Saint Mother Teresa.
"It's a slightly larger than life size statue of Pope John Paul II, which means that when you get up close and you can look up into his eyes. His hands are open and wide, so you see people either hugging him, literally, or just simply holding his hand.”
The powerful image of Mother Teresa was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus as a gift to the Missionaries of Charity, the order founded by Mother Teresa in 1950.
"With Mother Teresa, I was struggling a bit to figure out which direction to take the painting and Carl Anderson, from the Knights of Columbus, was in my studio and shared with me a quotation of Mother Teresa's that he liked and it hit home for me. So, it was the "hook” that I needed.”
With only eight weeks to complete the iconic Mother Teresa painting, he describes the tedious process involved in finding the right image that would fully capture the image of Mother Teresa.
"It's a very simple quote, 'joy is strength' and I loved it and the more I live with it the more I love it and I think that is what drove the expression you see in her face.”
Aside from working on religious figures like Saint Mother Teresa and Saint John Paul II, Chas has painted the portraits of all the U.S. Presidents and other notable historical figures. He has a collection that regularly tours the United States for the White House Historical Association.