I did this painting as Part One of a two-stage commission from Stephanie Rizzuto. She’s related to Leo, the older man who sits out on the front step in a tilted-back wooden chair.

This stage of the commission was to paint just his building, 81 Prince Street. Leo lives on the ground floor of this nice old stone-and-brick apartment building, in what’s clearly a converted street-level shop from many decades back. I can easily imagine that the red wood-paneling with the gold trim pieces either takes the place of large plate-glass windows, or simply covers them up. I like to think that they’re still there, though I know it’s unlikely. Lots of buildings in the North End are right up-tight to each other, but I was able to paint a nice, atmospheric alleyway here, subtly fading into view from a faint reflected light, up to a silhouetted fire-escape railing. (Oh, well – it looks better in person, I guess.)

This painting was actually done before last Christmas, along with the second stage of the commission, which will be posted next time. I can tell you what the second painting is of though: it’s of Leo himself, leaning back in his chair on his front step, waving at the viewer.

I like this one because it depicts one of the many lovely old buildings in the neighborhood, which were never built as high-dollar addresses but which couldn’t be built this way now, not with their solid architecture and classic stonework decorations around the windows. Even the asymmetrical proportions of the facade – and especially of the copper, overhanging to the right – give the building a sense of motion and power that’s characteristic of the dynamic Machine Age (the 1880’s for this building? Does anybody know? Post- Civil War, anyway?). It’s also a reflection of the characters that live in the buildings now, and those who have lived there before, over the long decades past. I have lots of curiosity and respect for the history of the North End, and I like the fact that I live here now.

Do you have an address in the North End that means something special to you? I’d be happy to hear form you, and to do an original oil painting of a place in the neighborhood that holds significance for you and your family. Contact me at: michaeldeanart@gmail.com

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