Jean Dennell
Jacques Janvier returned to the studio with his friend Jean Dennell, a notable watercolor artist herself. As it happened, Dennell's reaction to Mulleian's painting was virtually the opposite of Janvier’s. Her quietly startled reaction took several minutes to find a voice. She, at first, seemed overwhelmed by the painting’s powerfully dramatic message and technical brilliance. Quietly, gradually, she moved ever closer to the canvas, intensely studying every detail without saying a word. She was overtaken by the piece.
Dennell was and is a deeply spiritual woman who had come from a Catholic background and was most comfortable with the old, traditional Latin Mass. So it was as though she had known the painting’s title before even seeing the canvas. Out of what seemed like the silence of eternity, from under her breath and absolutely without effort, came the words “Dies Irae”. To everyone’s amazement and with a burst of exuberant relief, they suddenly realized the painting’s name.
To this day, nearly thirty three years later and at the age of nearly ninety, Jean Dennell has never forgotten the enormous personal impact of the work, an impact which hasn’t faded since she first laid eyes upon the artist’s easel, and the painting of the day of wrath, which she named Dies Irae, one sunny afternoon in August of 1987.
Jean Dennell and Mulleian's Painting Dies Irae
Now, almost exactly twenty three years later, after being inadvertently out of touch for the last ten years, and after personal losses for both Dennell and Mulleian, (she, with the death of two of her three sons, he, with the death of his long-time companion Robert Arbegast) the warmth of their friendship has continued. Dennell still lives in San Francisco, producing vibrant watercolors of many subjects, but most notably of the indigenous peoples of Honduras and greater Latin America.