Raymond G. Starr, Book Review Editor
An Uncommon Mission: Father Jerome Tupa Paints the California Missions.
Text by Holly Witchey. New York: Welcome Enterprises, Inc., 1999. Color plates, photographs, 96 Pages, $19.95 Hardcover.
Benedictine monk, professor of French, and internationally known artist Jerome Tupa spent three years visiting, drawing and painting the remains (mostly the churches) of the Spanish missions of California; the results are displayed in a exhibit shown (or to be shown) in San Diego, Santa Barbara and Fresno. This hardcover catalog contains introductory and explanatory text, both of a general nature and each mission. The information on the artist is very helpful for understanding his art, whether it be viewed in the exhibit or as reproduced in this book. On the other hand, the textual material about the missions is brief, focused primarily on the buildings, and does not add much to our knowledge of those institutions. An Uncommon Mission also includes excellent color reproductions of the major paintings and some of the watercolors, and a photograph of each mission. The Uncommon Mission is an excellent companion to the exhibitions and will help the viewer better understand the artwork.
The book is especially good as an introduction to an artist who, by specializing in religious works and on serial paintings, is admittedly outside the mainstream of contemporary American art. Most readers of the Journal of San Diego History probably will not be concerned about that as they are more likely to use the book (and/or the exhibit) to gain another way of looking at and thinking about one of the main icons of California culture. For that, and as a very attractive addition to one’s collection of art books, An Uncommon Mission is recommended.