Screen painting

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Screen painting that belonged to Arnold Genthe

Screen painting is painting on window screens. It is a folk art form originating in immigrant working-class neighborhoods in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early 20th century.

The wire screen section of a screen door is typically painted with bucolic landscapes, still lifes, or other subjects of interest. The artist paints the scene directly onto the screen, making sure to remove excess paint from the screen's holes so the screen retains its ability to ventilate. The scene painted on the screen prevents the eye from focusing past the image, giving residents privacy without limiting their ability to look outside. While screen painting is now mostly regarded as urban kitsch, authentic examples can still be seen in Baltimore neighborhoods such as Hampden or Highlandtown.

Screen painting was invented by the Czech immigrant William Oktavec to restrict the sunlight entering his produce store. He had studied commercial art and drawing before opening his Baltimore shop. The technique was later taken up in other neighborhoods by other artists.

It is estimated that as many as 100,000 painted screens in Baltimore once adorned the rowhomes.[1][2][3][4] As of 2014 there were only 1,000 screen paintings left.[5]

The American Visionary Art Museum features a permanent exhibition on screen paintings, including a re-creation of a row house and a documentary titled "The Screen Painters" made by folklorist Elaine Eff.[5][6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Screen Painting - History". Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  2. ^ Lipka, Tom. "Baltimore Window Screen Painting - History Of Screen Painting". Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  3. ^ Lipka, Tom. "Baltimore's Painted Window Screens". Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  4. ^ "The Busy Brush Decorative Art - The History of Screen Painting". 2005. Retrieved 2008-08-12.
  5. ^ a b "Keeping Baltimore's painted window screens alive". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  6. ^ "It's Not Just a Screen, Hon; A Window on Baltimore Tradition". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-10-17.

Further reading[edit]

  • Camp, Charles; Baltimore City Hall Rotunda; Towson State University, University Union Gallery. Baltimore's Painted Screens, Towson State University, 1982.
  • Eff, Elaine. Looking Pretty: Baltimore's Painted Screens, San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, 1991.
  • Eff, Elaine. The Painted Screens of Baltimore: An Urban Folk Art Revealed, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2013.
  • Eff, Elaine. The Painted Screens of Baltimore, Maryland: Decorative, Folk Art, Past and Present, University of Pennsylvania, 1984.
  • Eff, Elaine. The Screen Painters, Painted Screen Society of Baltimore, 1988.
  • Herget, Dee; Painted Screen Society of Baltimore, Inc. How to Paint a Baltimore Screen, Painted Screen Society, 1997.

External links[edit]