Harry A. Evans Jr., did paintings of rowhouses

April 10, 1995|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Harry A. Evans Jr., a painter who chronicled a half-century of Baltimore architecture, died Wednesday at Fort Howard Veterans Administration Hospital of complications from diabetes. He was 69.

Since World War II, patrons and friends said, Mr. Evans captured the soul of Baltimore through his watercolors, oils and acrylic paintings on paper -- not by painting his impressions of people, but by capturing the individuality of rowhouses and other city buildings.

Mr. Evans painted buildings from Brooklyn to Pikesville, often starting by looking up records to find out what sort of bricks were used or what type of wood made up a structure's crossbeams.

"He was a Baltimorean from the very beginning, and he loved the city and he really chronicled the changes in the city, from the 1950s through the 1990s," said his friend Judith Lippman, director of the Meredith Gallery.

Mr. Evans' works have been exhibited in the Peale Museum and the Maryland Historical Society, and hang in bank buildings as well as the humble rowhouses he is best known for painting.

During a 1967 interview, he said he sold about 50 paintings a year at prices ranging from $20 to $150. He also worked in a framing shop.

Many of the buildings he painted downtown no longer exist, having been torn down to make way for Harborplace, Charles Center and other developments.

In the interview, he spoke of feeling the life that remained in abandoned buildings he wanted to paint, almost as a ghostly presence.

Born in Baltimore and raised in the 2100 block of Druid Hill Ave., Evans attended Douglass High School but left before graduation to join the Navy in 1943. After the war, he was in the merchant marine for several years, then studied art at the California School of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, Calif.

Mr. Evans got his start as a painter while he was a window dresser for Hecht's department store.

"They had dark paper [for backgrounds]; it was a bluish-greenish, charcoaly kind of paper. He could get that paper very inexpensively, and he started painting on it," Ms. Lippman said.

He later switched to more common white paper, but his black-paper paintings are prized by Evans aficionados, she said.

In later years, he painted dark backgrounds to achieve the same effect -- like dark skies that made the buildings stand out.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. tomorrow at St. Bernardine's Roman Catholic Church, 3812 Edmondson Ave.

Mr. Evans' wife, the former Ann Howard, died in 1985. He is survived by a son, Jonathan Xavier Evans, and a daughter, Suzanne Marie Evans, both of the city's Edmondson Village area.

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