Marie Whittie

[Age 86] Longtime local artist depicted Baltimore rowhouses and street scenes with an eye for `detail and whimsy.'

March 20, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Marie Trinite Whittie, an artist who affectionately depicted Baltimore in her paintings of its rowhouses and street scenes, died Saturday of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at Mercy Medical Center. The Bolton Hill resident was a day short of her 87th birthday.

Born Marie Elizabeth Trinite in Pikesville, she grew up on Madison Street and attended the Cathedral School before graduating from Eastern High School in 1938. She earned a fine arts degree at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Mrs. Whittie worked while smoking a cigarette, and - during baseball season - listening to broadcasts of Orioles games that she played loudly on two radios, neighbors said. She painted in home studios - first on Rutter Street and later on Lanvale - and created more than 600 Baltimore scenes during her half-century in Bolton Hill.

"She was our Grandma Moses," said Richard J. Roszel, a former Bolton Hill neighbor who once commissioned a painting. "What she saw was what she painted, with a definite eye for detail and whimsy along the way."

Mrs. Whittie marketed her paintings at outdoor shows - on fences around Druid Lake and at the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, when those sites had art shows, and at the old Rutter Street Festival. She was an organizer of the latter event with her husband of 21 years, Francis X. Whittie, a Sun page makeup editor who died in 1981.

She also sold her paintings and took commissions at the Bolton Hill festival and at the Rehoboth Art League in Delaware. She exhibited her works alongside those of her sister, Dorothy Trinite Kelly, who died in 2003.

"She told you what she thought and never put on airs," said neighbor Valerie Olson. "She put herself and her vision in those pictures. Her painting was her way of relating to people and where they lived."

Mrs. Whittie did not use canvas, instead creating her images on small wooden boards not much larger than a post card, friends said. She favored bright colors and the type of luminous oils used by artist Jacques Maroger, who resided in Baltimore for a time before his 1962 death.

"She never had any trouble selling her paintings and didn't have to promote herself," said Craig Flinner, owner of a Charles Street art gallery. "She created that look - it was intentionally flat, two-dimensional. There would often be curtains in the windows and flower pots. You could pick out the details."

She drove around the city in a Ford Maverick, and later a Pinto, to scout out her subject matter. She gave up driving last year.

"In Baltimore and when she traveled, she looked at the buildings - and for a scene she could paint," said her son, David T. Whittie of Torrance, Calif.

"Her eyesight was failing, but she continued to paint," said another neighbor, Molly Rath. "It was a ritual when she opened her kitchen's heavy shutters every morning. The day had begun."

Mrs. Whittie donated her body to the Maryland Anatomy Board.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church, Lafayette and Mount Royal avenues, where she was an active member.

She is also survived by two sisters, Yvonne Tapp of Metairie, La., and Jackie Judge of Livermore, Calif.; and a grandson.

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