A place called home: A grandfather’s art

News | December 10, 2015

Heidi Watkins attended a concert with her mom, Patty (Lundahl) Watkins, about 15 years ago at First Lutheran Church in Moline. As she sat in the pews, she noticed the incredible mural behind the altar, and half-moon-shaped pieces depicting the life of Jesus up in the high ceilings of the historic sanctuary.

At one point, her mom leaned over and told her that it was Heidi’s great-grandfather who created them.

“Aren’t they just gorgeous?” Heidi said as she stood in that same sanctuary earlier this week.


Frank Lundahl’s life as an artist is getting some attention lately, as a portion is on display at the Augustana Teaching Museum of Art. “A Place Called Home: Frank Lundahl and the Quad Cities” runs through Feb. 12. The exhibit showcases works donated to the college by the Watkins family and the Castel family of Davenport – both descendants of a prolific painter who made his living, and his life, painting and sketching sacred and secular scenes. It is free and open to the public, Wednesday-Saturday, noon-4 p.m., when classes are in session. The museum will be closed Dec. 18-Jan. 10.

Claire Kovacs is the director of the museum. The college, she said, is excited to display the collection, as part of a renewed commitment to share artists and their works with the community. The Augustana pieces are ones that were not commissioned pieces of Frank’s – they are pieces he created in his free time, because painting and sketching were who he was. He explored a variety of styles, mediums, and even what he painted on. One piece is on the back of wallpaper, others on canvas, and even cardboard. Oils, watercolors, graphite – his deep need to create is clear.

frank2  frank4frank3

In preparation for the exhibit, Clare gathered information about Frank, through community archives, newspaper articles, visits to the places where his works remain, and conversations with those who knew him – and his ancestors. The story she pieced together is told on a panel near the entrance of the exhibit.

Frank Lundahl (1858-1932) was a Swedish-American artist born in Rock Island.  He first trained under Lars Axel Blombergson, a Swedish painter who immigrated to Moline. He later studied at what is now the Art Institute of Chicago.

Making his living as a muralist, Frank created canvas paintings in his studio, which were then installed onsite. He painted church and secular murals for interiors in the Quad Cities, as well as in Chicago. While many of his murals were created in buildings that have been torn down or renovated, such as the Second Congregational Church in Moline, the Moline Public Library, the Illinois Theater in Rock Island, and the FOE building in Rock Island, his works still survive at the First Lutheran Church in Moline and the Capitol Theater in Davenport.

His ceiling paintings in the Joseph Huntoon Homestead in Moline played a role in a vigorous community debate when the house was slated for demolition in the mid-1980s.

Through his commissions, Frank established a reasonable reputation as a muralist in the Quad Cities.

But when not creating works on commission, Frank created sketches and paintings that focus on the Mississippi Valley. “Working in oils, watercolor and graphite, these works — a dramatic shift in focus from his interior murals — are a portrait of the daily life in the region: river boats, landscapes, farm scenes and still lifes.”

The largest piece in the Augustana exhibit is The Blacksmith. Started in 1900, it was meant to be a tribute to John Deere. A hoped-for sale to the company never materialized. Instead, it hung in Patty Watkins’ childhood home for many years. In 1991, it was restored, donated to Augustana, and installed in Wallenburg Hall, where it remained for a number of years.

Today, several of Frank’s descendants have pieces in their homes, including Patty and Heidi. There’s one large piece in particular that Patty hopes to have restored.

“It’s nice that he’s being recognized again,” Patty said.


2 Comments on “A place called home: A grandfather’s art”

  • Heidi Watkins

    December 12, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    As I have grown older, I have developed a much greater appreciation for my Great Grandfather’s works of art. I’m grateful for your interest in this, Ann McGlynn. Thanks for sharing!

  • Patty Watkins

    December 10, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Thank you, Anne. You did a beautiful job on the article about my Grandfather. I’m proud of him and wish I had inherited some of his talent.

Leave a Reply to Patty Watkins Cancel Reply

Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,



6just as He says also in another passage,



7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight