Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Every Painting Tells a Story

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Every Painting Tells a Story

Article excerpt

FORT LEE -- In 1952, when Pat Kinney was 9 years old, she donned a white blouse with red-embroidered ruffles and sat for a portrait by little-known artist Paul D. Ortlip in his Fort Lee studio.

Sixty-four years later, Kinney can remember everything about that moment, including the sour-cream cookies Ortlip kept nearby to bribe her into stillness.

"It's part of the family history," Kinney said Saturday as she held the portrait in the Fort Lee Museum.

Ortlip went on to become a painter of some national renown, and although he died in 2008, his artwork continues to shape the way North Jersey residents remember the past -- especially scenes from the Palisades and the people who spent time there.

His work and that of others adorn many of Fort Lee's most prominent public places. On Saturday -- what would have been Ortlip's 90th birthday -- Tom Meyers, the borough's cultural and heritage affairs administrator, and Ortlip's daughter, Michele, led a group of about 35 people on a walk along Main Street to learn more about the region's history through those paintings.

The first stop was at Engine Company 1, where a 6 1/2-by-22-foot mural painted by Ortlip and dedicated in 1971 depicts four notable borough fires and the department's sole casualty in 128 years of firefighting -- Frederick Cavaliere, who was killed in a 1927 fire at Paragon Film Studios on Linwood Avenue.

The tour then moved to the post office, a New Deal-era building where four large murals, painted by New York-based artist Henry Schnakenberg in 1940, greet those buying stamps. They portray Native Americans trading with Henry Hudson, George Washington meeting with the British on the Palisades, actors filming a Western movie in a Fort Lee film studio and a family in "the present day" picnicking in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge.

"I'm really happy to be on this tour," said one participant, Randi Raskin. "I see these things all the time and now I'll have a whole different perspective."

In Borough Hall, participants found several portraits of former mayors painted by Ortlip, as well as a painting of George Washington on the Palisades that is mounted behind the dais in the council chambers. …

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