What is a Painted Screen?
Painted screens are canvases with holes. Imagine a window or door screen with a picture painted on the exterior side only. The paint does not cover or clog the holes. The colorful image stops the gaze of people on the sidewalk from seeing inside the darkened room. The view to the street from the house is unobstructed. The screen still functions perfectly for ventilation and as a barrier to flying insects. The one way effect does not work when a light source is in the room. Originally made of woven wire mesh, stretched and framed in wood, later metal or vinyl, screens are now made in a wide variety of materials.
Only in Baltimore?
Rowhouses, attached homes sharing common walls, fill thousands of blocks of this major American city. The homes' windows face the street at eye level. They provide the perfect outdoor gallery. Only in Baltimore could you walk the streets of a living museum, and enjoy examples of the unique art form found on window and door screens throughout historic, primarily eastside communities. Painted screens are an authentic urban folk art, created, displayed and beloved here since 1913.
William Oktavec, a Czech grocer, introduced his iconic “Red Bungalow” scene in 1913. Painted screens were found on almost every window and door in entire neighborhoods of the city during most of the twentieth century, and can be found today scattered throughout the region and country.