Street In Naples, by Clark Hulings

Same Sky, Different Laundry

“I decided to treat my painting as an abstraction which would stand by itself as a good design whether held upside down or sideways. Realism wasn’t important.”

Here is a long, tall beauty from 1968. At a mere 8″ across, Street in Naples is a narrow, upward looking, sky scraper-shaped work, and a great example of a consummate artist cleverly applying his illustrator’s skills to a complicated easel painting.

In Hulings’ Own Words:

“The laundry hanging from these city tenements made such a fascinating pattern that I decided to treat my painting as an abstraction which would stand by itself as a good design whether held upside down or sideways. Realism wasn’t important. The posters, the balconies, the building blocks, the cobblestones, and the flat gray sky all fit together like pieces of a puzzle. I chanced to be in Naples many years later and found this same street. Same buildings, same balconies, same cobblestones, same gray sky, different poster, different laundry.”

Letting go of a literal rendering of this street in favor of a mediation on its patterns, the shapes of the cobblestones repeat in the hanging laundry and even in the gray blocks of the sky. The color accents in the washing are carefully-placed, with a red dress stealing the show and a blue piece of fabric backing it up—you’ll even see some additional scratches and splatters of bright red toward the bottom right of the frame. The edges of posters on the left hint at what might have been going on in the city at the time—maybe the ballet or the opera. The bands of shadow falling across the street just in front of the man create a visual rhythm and makes you feel as if you could just walk into the scene and experience the canopy of laundry.

Little Black Dress

Hulings has a second piece, a watercolor from eight years before, in which we see a consideration of a similar set of ideas on the same street. Naples Slot #2 was featured in the Tulsa Watercolor show, and the hanging red dress and blue fabric accent made their debut there. The stylish lady in her black cocktail dress anchors the scene to the bottom left, complete with a gesture of her foot toward the corner of the frame.

Naples Slot #2, by Clark Hulings
Naples Slot #2, by Clark Hulings

Go for Baroque

As the third largest city in Italy and one of the oldest continuous urban settlements in the world, Naples has been Greek, Roman, and Byzantine; it was the capital of the Kingdom of Naples, then of the Two Sicilies until Italy unified in 1861; it was expanded under Mussolini in 1920s-30s and then bombed during WW II. Naples’ culinary traditions go far beyond its pizza, with more Michelin Star restaurants than anywhere else in food-obsessed Italy. The Neapolitan school of opera was founded by baroque composer Alessandro Scarlatti, and the city also was the birthplace of renowned tenor Enrico Caruso.

Play All the Angles

If you’d like to visit this street on a regular basis, both paintings are featured in A Gallery of Paintings by Clark Hulings. With your copy of the book, you can test out Hulings’ statement above that Street in Naples is equally effective sideways and upside down.

Elizabeth Hulings