Edward Hopper

High Noon

American 1949 Oil on canvas 27 ½ x 39 ½ inches Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Haswell 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.


A Day in the Life


Tools and Techniques


Behind the Scenes

How does a conservator see a work of art?


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.


Look Closer


Just for Kids


Signs & Symbols


Dig Deeper

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



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.


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)


The Sculpture Speaks


Did You Know?


Expert Opinion

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


If we were to pick out a painting or work of art as the most popular work in our collection, and probably the most sought-after picture by museums around the world, it would be a toss-up between High Noon by Edward Hopper and our Waterlilies painting by Claude Monet.

This is classic Hopper. Hopper was quoted as saying that he couldn't get the shadows right in High Noon, so he built a little cardboard model and then looked at it out in the sunlight at 11:50 in the morning, and because of it he was able to get the shadows and that striking line which covers the roofline down to her very feet on the steps of the house just exactly right. You look at this picture, which is hauntingly vacant, and you find a stillness of time which is so classically Hopper. The isolation, this eternal act of waiting, yet you also find the promise and hope of sunlight. Interestingly enough, Hopper, who painted this on Cape Cod, later referred to this setting, which is somewhat nebulous, as "Hopper Land.”

He was clearly in a very different place and time from those people who were painting in an abstracted fashion. He was not alone, but it was clearly not as popular in the sense of what the critics were looking for: cutting-edge originality. They were looking at Franz Kline, they were looking at Jackson Pollock, they were looking at others of the New York school that were painting in an abstracted fashion. But there were two really divergent styles of great importance. American realism, which is, in this essence in Hopper's work, quintessentially American. You can place yourself in this picture because as Hopper Land that makes it essentially an American painting by virtue of its commonality.


Look Around


About the Artist

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


Unknown Speaker 1: Everybody thought he was the greatest; he was like a god.

Unknown Speaker 2: He invented or developed a lot of ways of picturing the American experience, which becomes a metaphor for bigger experience.

Unknown Speaker 3: 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. The 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.

Red Grooms: 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 the history of 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 six-foot seven-inch Hopper a little daunting.

Unknown Speaker 4: 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.

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

SM: As the confidence of the [19]20s gave way to the uncertainties of the [19]30s and [19]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 and 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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Talk Back

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?