Screen painting is a folk art indenginous to Baltimore. An art wherein one would paint images on door and window screens seen on the fronts of ones home. Beautific scenes of swans floating on ponds, surrounded by shady trees, blue skies and red- roofed cottages- these were the typical images found on screens. This type of art was a creative solution which allowed people to keep their windows open on hot summer days and see out, but restricted others from seeing in.
Its origins date back to the arly 1900's and are attributed to a man named William Oktavec. Oktavec happened to own an art shop around the corner from Johnny and Rob. Both Eck brothers worked at the shop in the off season from their shows and honed their skills as both screen and sign painters. Johnny's style of screen painting was vastly different from the other screen painters in Baltimore. Johnny was known for his wild use of color and unusual subject matter.
Many screens can still be seen around Baltimore, but to find one of Johnny's is highly unlikely.
Johnny Eck painting a screen in later years.
(Photo copyright Elaine Eff)