High Noon

71_7Edward Hopper (1882 – 1967) American Realist
HIGH NOON, 1949, Oil on canvas
Height 27 1/2 inches Width 39 1/2 inches
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Haswell, 1971.7

This painting first caught my eye in my freshman art class back in 1985, when my high school art teacher, Jane Gildow introduced us to art history. I was immediately struck by the realism style as well as, the solitude and shadows that Hopper illustrated. Hopper once said “I just want to paint sunlight on the side of a building”. Years later on a trip to my hometown art museum, The Dayton Art Institute, I found that what I’ve come to regard as my favorite painting has been permanently housed here in Dayton since right after my birth in 1971.

It’s not the same but even though I have a framed print at home on the wall of my living room I still visit, my Hopper—as I’ve come to regard it, on limited and rare occasions. The most recent was my birthday last week. It was as awe-inspiring as ever. I’m always oddly fulfilled with an overwhelming loneliness that for some reason provides a strange happiness to me. Please enjoy the following information about Edward Hopper, High Noon and the American Realism style.

Information and copy via: The Dayton Art Institute and Marianne Richter
Edward Hopper is best known for his poignant yet curiously detached paintings of modern life, such as High Noon. The painting is characteristic of Hopper’s mature style of simplified planes, broad blocks of color, isolated figures, and detached viewpoint. The strongly geometrical quality of his paintings is augmented here by the interplay of lines made by junctions of sunlight and shadow and the interest in architectural features. While a seemingly realistic depiction of the scene, in reality the composition is highly ordered, and many details, such as vegetation and a pathway to the door, have been left out.Hopper depicted American subjects, believing that artists should respond to their own surroundings and heritage. Having studied with Robert Henri, he was familiar with the work of The Eight, the exhibiting circle with whom Henri was associated. Like The Eight’s core group of urban realists, who focused on paintings of ordinary city life, Hopper found inspiration in prosaic subjects such as gas stations, hotel rooms, train compartments, and offices: images familiar and yet overlooked in everyday existence. Hopper’s works differ from the earlier works, however, in their more ordered compositions, lighter tonality, and omission of detail. His scenes are peopled by anonymous human beings, usually physically or psychologically isolated from their environment. All activity is suspended; indeed, the absence of movement is the event.

Hopper’s fascination with solitude and specific times of day is apparent in High Noon. The woman stands alone at her doorway, seemingly removed from civilization. Although his isolated, generic figures sometimes reflect the alienation present in modern society, Hopper enjoyed being alone. In High Noon, solitude is a positive state, for the woman’s air of expectancy and hope seems to be generated by the sunlight and adds a quality of sexual tension to the painting.

This outdoor scene shows a solitary house and its occupant situated in an open prairie. The house nearly fills the canvas, and is the only object visible to the horizon. The scene is awash in sunlight, brightly illuminating the white siding of the house. At ground level, a red strip of foundation is visible beneath the white walls. The left section of the house projects forward slightly under a peaked roof, and this extension casts a diagonal shadow downward and to the right. The left section of the house has a tall window, through which a table, chair and picture are visible inside the house. At the center of the house are two white steps that lead up to a door. A woman with long blond hair stands in the doorway, looking out and slightly upward, with her left forearm raised across her body. She is wearing a sleeveless blue robe that extends to her ankles, but it is open in the middle to partially reveal her breasts and abdomen. To the right of the door is another window with white curtains drawn closed. The house has a gray shingled roof with a narrow red chimney. Protruding forward from the roof are two dormer windows, each with white curtains and shades that are partly drawn. The grass around the house is golden, but it becomes green in the distance where the ground meets the horizon. Above the scene is a blue sky with a few hazy white clouds.

Via: Alexander Lee Nyerges
High Noon 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. American realism, the essence of Hopper’s work is quintessentially American. You can place yourself in this picture because it’s, essentially an American painting by virtue of its commonality.

Circa71 previous Hopper related post: No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.

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