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JESUS AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN, a history of the painting

Story ID:2140
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Location:Gilboa New York USA
Person:Marion Wickert, Fred Wickert
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JESUS AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN, a history of the painting

JESUS AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN, a history of the painting

JESUS AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN, a history of the painting

JESUS AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN, a history of the painting

JESUS AND THE LITTLE CHILDREN, a history of the painting

A history of the painting
By Fred Wickert

Marion Emma Emelia Wickert was born on September 12, 1903. Her life was short. It was claimed by Diphtheria and she passed away the day before her eighth birthday, at 1:55 A.M. on September 11, 1911.

Her mother, Mary Bausinger Wickert, was understandably distraught. She made inquiries about artists. A young up and coming artist in New York City was recommended to her.

Communications in those days were painfully slow, but she was finally able to contact the young artist and make arrangements with him. The artist came from New York City to Syracuse, New York, where he stayed for the next six months, in the Wickert home.

Mary Wickert was especially fond of a painting by famed artist and professor, Bernhard Plockhorst (1825 – 1907), called “Jesus Blessing the Children.” She wanted that painting copied, and the likeness of her deceased daughter Marion placed in the painting. A formal portrait photo of Marion had been done a few months before she passed away. This was the likeness of Marion used to produce the effect Mary wanted.

The artist took six months to complete the painting, which measures eight feet by 12 feet in size. In addition to his room, board and laundry for those six months, the artist was paid the princely sum of nine hundred dollars. In those days, that was a lot of money. As long as fifteen years later, one could buy a pair of new cars for that sum, and have money left over. The name of the artist that did the painting is unknown.

In 1912 at a time near the anniversary of her death, the painting, now named “Jesus and the Little Children,” bearing the likeness of Marion Wickert, was dedicated in the Mount Tabor Lutheran Church, located at 1008 Butternut Street, in Syracuse, New York, the Reverend Bauer presiding. Reverend Bauer served in that church in 1912 and 1913.

Many years passed with the painting being displayed in that church and loved by the congregation. Eventually, both Mary Wickert and her husband, Frederick William Wickert passed away. The congregation of the Mount Tabor church and of another church merged into one church. The Mount Tabor church was demolished. Members of the Wickert family were offered the painting, but no one had a place in their home that could accommodate such a large painting.

Clarence (Clem) Silfer, husband of Erma Wickert, another daughter of Frederick and Mary Bausinger Wickert, removed the painting from the Mount Tabor church and took it home. He rolled it up and stored it in his garage for two years. In the spring of 1958, Frederick William Wickert, a brother to both Erma and Marion, went to Syracuse to visit his sister. He traveled in his pick up truck. When he returned home, he brought the painting with him to Gilboa, New York.

Fred William Wickert was the Vocational Agriculture and shop teacher at the Gilboa-Conesville Central School and had for many years, together with his family, been active members of the Gilboa Methodist church.

Fred Wickert proceeded to construct a frame for the painting and painted it in gold color. He framed the painting at the Gilboa church on May 16, 1958. With the assistance of Ford Nickerson, the founder of the famous Nickerson Park Camp Ground, he hung the painting in the Gilboa church on the wall over the inner double doors on May 17th, 1958. He gave the painting to the church, and the dedication service was held on May 25, 1958.

Fred William Wickert, son of the first Fred William Wickert and Mary Bausinger Wickert was four years older than Marion Wickert, his younger sister. When his second daughter Ruth Marion Wickert was born, her middle name was named after his deceased sister Marion.

Ruth Marion Wickert Weaver, and her husband Walter Weaver, Clarence (Clem) Silfer and wife, Erma Wickert, sister to Marion and Fred, and their daughter Carol, Priscilla Wickert, youngest child of Fred Wickert and her husband Charles Guyette, and of course, Fred Wickert himself, and his wife, Helen Gould Wickert, who was playing the organ, as well as some other relatives were present at the dedication service. The third Fred William Wickert, son of Fred and Helen Gould Wickert was serving in the United States Air Force in Japan at the time and was unable to attend.

Fred Wickert, the donor of the painting to the church, passed away on March 20, 1960. Marion had passed away the day before her birthday. Her brother Fred passed away two days before his 61st birthday. His casket rolled out the doors of the church following his funeral service, beneath the painting he had so lovingly hung there less than two years before.

When the church building was moved from next to the Schoharie Creek to the present location following the flood of 1996, the mover intended to take down the painting for the protection of it. He found that it was so firmly installed that he was unable to remove it, so he covered it with tarpaulins to protect it instead. It made the trip unharmed.

This history of the painting is being written in May of 2007. In May next year, will be the 50th anniversary of the painting presiding over the chapel of the Gilboa Methodist church.

The original painting, “Jesus Blessing the Children,” by Bernhard Plockhorst
Prints of this painting are still available at several art dealers both in the United States and abroad.

The painting, “Jesus and the Little Children,” as it hangs in the Gilboa Methodist church. The girl dressed in red, left center, the woman behind her with her arm across in front of her, is the likeness of Marion Wickert, used to replace the girl in the original painting by Bernhard Plockhorst.

Fred William Wickert the first and his wife, Mary Bausinger Wickert
It was Mary who commissioned the Gilboa church painting.

Portrait of Marion Wickert, used by the artist to place her likeness in the painting.

Fred William Wickert, who donated the painting and built the frame and installed the painting in the Gilboa church.