“The star in this city scene is clearly the street itself: giving these four a way to get where they’re going, presenting an intriguing downhill slope that makes their destination a shadowed mystery.”
Clark Hulings, as you know if you’ve been reading our series, was traveling through Europe and North Africa in 1960, solidifying his subject matter as an easel painter and arriving in Sicily in July of that year. In Taormina Cobblestones we’re seeing him explore a classic style: a portrait-orientation, tall-and-slim city street, where narrowed buildings frame the daily life of four figures: a widow and a group of three other pedestrians, one wearing red. But a key accent color in the painting is teal: the laundry on the right (is it a tablecloth? A party dress?) commands attention, and the color is repeated in a few of the terracotta roof tiles. Those tiles are a playful little reminder that although Hulings was a realist, he was never a literal painter—he’s playing with a syncopated rhythm, inviting the eye to bounce around the canvas. But the star in this city scene, judging by Hulings’ title, is clearly the street itself in the foreground: giving these four a way to get where they’re going, presenting an intriguing downhill slope that makes their destination a shadowed mystery. Taormina is the protagonist.
Fans of old show tunes might remember that Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate mentions Taormina in “Where is the Life That Late I Led”—Petruchio is lamenting the loss of his old bachelor lifestyle, which he appears to have enjoyed ALL over Italy. But Taormina, a picturesque city on the North Coast of Sicily overlooking the Ionian Sea, is far older than that: its first Greek colony was 734 BCE.
This 30″ x 25” oil comes from the Jeannie Ottinger collection, just like House in Sicily. Elizabeth Hulings grew up looking at this painting above her aunt Sue and uncle Harry Ottinger’s mantle, so it’s been in the Hulings family since the 60s.
*Update* This beautiful Italian street scene is ready to live above a lucky new family’s mantle, Taormina Cobblestones sold at The Scottsdale Art Auction April 8-9th 2022.