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Edward Hopper

High Noon

(1882-1967)
American 1949 Oil on canvas 27 ½ x 39 ½ inches Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Howell 1971.7

Precise yet mysterious

In order to precisely capture the effects of the noon sun and shadows, Edward Hopper built a replica of the house and placed it outside at 11:50 a.m.  Although the light may be realistic, the rest of the painting is not as literal. Though he painted it in Massachusetts, it is set in a nonexistent place the artist called “Hopper Land”, by which he meant that his works, regardless of their subject, always emphasized his own personal interests as an artist.

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A Day in the Life

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Tools and Techniques

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Behind the Scenes

How does a conservator see a work of art?

Transcript:

Janice Passafiume, Conservator

Things that we find that are most interesting are the artists decision process- how he began, how he thought through -why he made the changes and what changes were made and I think what he struggled with the most was his concentration on trying to find the perfect person in the picture or was it a geometrical decision- was it something that was based on his early training or his own philosophy- we don't know until we really get right down and use the science and really put all the pieces together -so the things that we would see with some of our technology is the initial drawing- perhaps the artist began with a painting rather than a drawing- in Hoppers case it was charcoal and that shows through quite easily, through the layers and his choice of colors -where his inspiration came from -why does an artist choose a particular color over another and most of the time it's not an arbitrary decision -it's something that he's worked up through years and years of experience- he's selected that perfect color to reflect his own personality or as in Hoppers case he had a knowledge of how the painting was to end up through time, past his demise, how the paints aged and how they interacted with each other and he seemed to try as best he could to avoid certain colors that he knew were going to make his paintings crack.

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Look Closer

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Just for Kids

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Signs & Symbols

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Dig Deeper

Former Dayton Art Institute Curator Will South explores the mystery of this intense painting.

 

Transcript: Edward Hopper’s figures are often alone, staring out of a window, sitting at a café table or standing on the porch of a New England house looking out at the ocean. High Noon is such a picture: an anonymous woman is seen in the doorway although we have no idea why. Is she waiting for someone? Or simply looking out on the day? There is no sense of any activity; she is still and surrounded by a large house that is struck by sunlight leaving dramatic shadows on the roof and walls. The sky beyond is large and empty. Life, Hopper seems to say, is intense—the sunlight is strong and the sky open—but still we are alone and waiting. High Noon is a typical painting for Edward Hopper: in it, he explores patterns of light and dark color that are almost abstract, but he also tells a subtle story about modern living: we may have a large house and time on our hands, and yet still have nothing to do.

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Arts Intersected

Ekphrastic poem by Daytonian Lianne Spidel

Ekphrasis is a Greek word meaning a literary description of a work of art.  Poet Lianne Spidel wrote this ekphrastic poem in response to Edward Hopper’s painting High Noon./p>

Woman in Blue
High Noon Edward Hopper, 1949

That she stands there, hand opening
her dressing gown, eyes lifted
full of ardor, might suggest prayer—
except for her high-heeled shoes,

the one adornment in sight.
Even the table is visible
though the window holds neither fruit
nor greenery,

and yes, it’s possible she is only 
taking in the midpoint of a summer day, 
nearly naked in the blue-shadowed
doorway of her simple house, 

its predictable horizontals of white
clapboards, a sturdy foundation
brick red in an ocean of meadow
gone yellow in the heat.

And no, you are not alone as you gaz
eat her.  Someone behind your left 
shoulder moves forward toward her—
but don’t worry,

he won’t notice you any more than 
she does in this empty landscape: not
a flower planted, no tree for shade, 
only the unforgiving sun, 

a skein of clouds unraveling far
beyond the roof, the silence
obliterated as footstep by footstep
the dry grass shatters.

(published in Chrome, 2006)

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The Sculpture Speaks

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Did You Know?

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Expert Opinion

Former Dayton Art Institute Curator Will South explores the mystery of this intense painting.

Transcript:

Edward Hopper’s figures are often alone, staring out of a window, sitting at a café table or standing on the porch of a New England house looking out at the ocean. High Noon is such a picture: an anonymous woman is seen in the doorway although we have no idea why. Is she waiting for someone? Or simply looking out on the day? There is no sense of any activity; she is still and surrounded by a large house that is struck by sunlight leaving dramatic shadows on the roof and walls. The sky beyond is large and empty. Life, Hopper seems to say, is intense—the sunlight is strong and the sky open—but still we are alone and waiting. High Noon is a typical painting for Edward Hopper: in it, he explores patterns of light and dark color that are almost abstract, but he also tells a subtle story about modern living: we may have a large house and time on our hands, and yet still have nothing to do.
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Look Around

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About the Artist

Hear actor Steve Martin introduce Edward Hopper’s life and art, produced by the National Gallery of Art

Transcript: (unknown speakers, except for Steve Martin)

Red Grooms, Artist: Everybody thought he was the greatest, he was like a god.

Unknown speaker 1: He invented or developed a lot of ways of picturing the American experience, which becomes a metaphor for bigger experience.

Unknown speaker 2: He certainly was a realist in that he painted what he saw. His pictures are made out of facts, certainly, but also memory and improvisation.

Steve Martin: Edward Hopper didn’t belong to a movement, or a group, or a school. A consummate outsider, he belonged to himself. In the 1920s, at the beginning of his career, he painted the plain, unadorned face of America: factories, telephone poles, small-town streets, and touring cars- and he pared them down to the raw essentials.

RG: In the sense of a white wine, he certainly was a dry white wine- he wasn’t fruity in any way, it’s very sparse. He didn’t do more than he had to. No one, no figurative artist was as bare-bones as he was. In a sense that it perfectly fitted his subject as well- the hotel rooms, the barren offices with minimal pieces of furniture, filing case- I think that’s the extraordinary, thrilling thing that he achieved.

SM: Art critics saw Hopper’s work as the latest chapter in American Realism- they compared him to Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer- but Hopper’s paintings lacked their dynamism and verve. That restraint seemed to come from within. Even his closest friends found the 6’7” Hopper a little daunting.

Unknown speaker 3: Hopper had no small talk. He was famous for his monumental silences- but, like the spaces in his pictures, they weren’t empty.

SM: Hopper was equally deliberate about his paintings. He worked hard, and his ideas came to him slowly.

Hopper himself: It’s very hard to define how they come about, but it’s a long process just stationed in the mind. Arising, emotion, I suppose.

SM: As the confidence of the 20s gave way to the uncertainties of the 30s and 40s, his subjects increasingly became uncommunicative figures, often alone in empty rooms. He translated their small dramas into something timeless and universal, in images of stillness of solitude that suggest- but never describe- a narrative. Hopper’s work engaged our imaginations by drawing on what was universal in the American experience. They capture silent moments, like frozen frames, from the drama of American life.

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Map It

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Artistic genius

At first glance, it may not look like much is going on in this painting- but if you look at it longer, the painting can seem more and more mysterious. What questions does this painting make you want to ask the artist?