Room With a View: Landscape Art Studio

Shop Talk by Kitty Kaufman

Rosario and Jo Barrasso live at the top of a narrow flight of stairs. They just converted a spare room into an informal studio to showcase Rosario's work. This small East Boston studio on Paris Street recently opened to the public. It is a very long time coming, his wife points out, for a painter who is 87 years old.

Barrasso made his first watercolor drawings commercially in the '30s. But, he says, he soon knew "there wasn't much money it" and he began to design and assemble airplane electronics. For the moment painting was second to the business of making a living.

After he and Jo retired, they bought a small place in New Hampshire. It was then that he began working in oils. "I was inspired by the changing landscape and ideas just kept forming in my head. He is totally absorbed and Jo says, "When he's painting, he doesn't hear me. He is so involved and it's beautiful to see that because you know he loves what he's doing."

His themes are landscapes, lakes and mountain scenes. Lighthouses and seashores are also a favorite. The oils are vivid and sometimes almost photographically lifelike. His colors blend seamlessly from skies in presentations that evoke the New England countryside. Water scenes with schooners and sailboats speak of bygone eras yet with a modern touch.

His wife brought out pencil drawings that Barrasso did years ago. Although the paper is fraying, the faces are still familiar: Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Martha Raye and Joan Crawford. He has never had a lesson and as Jo says, "Look at this, isn't it incredible?" Barrasso's vision is a gift made all the more unusual because it comes not from lessons or schooling or even travel but from a melding of his personal experience.

I asked him how he positions his work and he said, "Really, what can I say, the pictures speak for themselves. I paint and I hang them up. People either like them or not. It's not up to me, it's up to them. Either it gets your attention or you walk on by." Jo says he doesn't give himself enough credit for how good he really is. He is actively searching for an agent to represent his work to galleries and offices. He reminds me, "I'm no young chicken, you know. I'm going to be 88 December 10. And I have all the time in the world." Update: Rosario Barrasso died March 31, 2009 at the age of 91.

© November 16, 2005 for The City Shopper
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