I fell madly in love with the Italian region of Umbria after spending a few weeks of the summer of 2019 discovering new towns like Spello, and Todi. Umbria has so much natural beauty, delicious food and a calmness about it that can ease your metropolitan body and soul.
During our stay in Todi, a hilltop town with a magnitude of medieval buildings we came across The Painted House while walking along S. Prassede Street, at the crossroads with Via Delle Mura Antiche. The Painted House dates back to the 19th century and is located not so far from the main Piazza del Popolo, in one of the oldest medieval districts in town.
The owners are Brian O’Doherty, an Irish-American artist, and his wife, Barbara Novak, a very popular American art historian. O’Doherty was born in Ireland in 1928 and is a self-taught artist based in New York since 1960. Considered as one of the pioneering generations of conceptual art, he has produced many seminal works including the Portrait of Marcel Duchamp (1966-7) and an early exhibition in a box, Aspen 5+6 (1967). He changed his artist name to Patrick Ireland in protest at the killings of civil rights marchers in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1972. While holidaying together in Todi, the couple bought this house in 1975 after choosing it as a perfect getaway home to spend their holidays and enjoy their free time, surrounded by nature and greenery. But being a creative soul, Brian began painting the house in 1977 and has never stopped. During his holidays the artist continues to paint the house, transforming it into an extraordinary work of art, now known as the “Casa dipinta” (Painted House).
Sometimes, looking up at Sophiatown… I have felt I was looking at an Italian village somewhere in Umbria.
The building, developed on three floors, has all its walls frescoed by the artist and with a reproduction of the ancient Ogham alphabet, used in Ireland until the 7th century. Inside, we climbed the colourful stairs that led us to the living room where there is a striking installation entitled “300”, in homage to the fourteenth-century Italian triptychs. On the highest level, there is a bedroom which has windows and fictitious openings as well as a chair placed under one of the windows by the artist. At the sides of the bed, you can see the silhouettes of the two hosts: Brian and Barbara. The Painted House is where the love of the couple and their passion for Todi have found its utmost expression. The house is in a certain way showing their love for each other. I would say that The Painted House is something unique that you don’t expect to find in a town like Todi and worth the visit.
For many years, The Painted House had been opened to visitors and tourists only thanks to the goodwill of two tour guides, Elisa Picchiotti and Luca Antonini. However, from August 3rd 2019, the has been included in the museum circuit of the city of Tody, making this unique work of art available to all.