28 DC Corcoran Ground Swell

When I came up from the underground Metro stop by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, I was met by a DC cop on a bike and two burly guys in steel-gray uniforms with patches on their short sleeves that said "Secret Service." I asked them, "What's this neighborhood like?"

They all chimed in reassuringly: "Oh, it's safe. You don't gotta worry."

Their answer seemed paranoid. (This was before 9/11.) "No," I said, "Are the people who live around here isolated?"

They snorted, "No one lives around here." I looked around and saw only high-rise office buildings. But at the next corner, the White House appeared on my left. "No one lives around here," the cops might have said, "except the country's leader!" And that resident is definitely isolated.

The White House is more correctly for most visitors
"The Black Fence," for that is what separates you from it--that and a billion dollars in campaign contributions. In the park across the street, two homeless people were practicing their freedom of speech, displaying signs critical of the government, as if they weren't themselves signs critical of the government. The Greek Revival White House, with its fluted pillars and triangles atop rectangles, is a subject Hopper might have chosen.

I was writing down these observations, and I suddenly swung around to make sure that those Secret Service guys weren't tailing me. They weren't; nevertheless, I pocketed the notebook and headed for the Corcoran.

Hopper had a long association with the Corcoran. In the spring of 1937, his painting
Cape Cod Afternoon won the museum's first-ever W.A. Clark Gold Medal Prize. Later, he would serve as a judge for that award. In an introduction to a Corcoran catalog, Hopper made one of his rare forays into putting in writing his beliefs about painting: "Broadly stated, art is one's effort to communicate to others one's emotional reaction to life and the world."

The Hopper here was the 1939
Ground Swell, about three feet by four, larger than most of his. The painting shows a boat with a white sail riding out the slow rolling wave of the title beneath even noonday sunlight. Ground Swell hung by itself on a powder blue wall about five feet off the ground beneath the Corcoran's twenty-foot-high ceilings, so the sky above the boat seemed to go on forever.

Ground Swell, four boys with tanned torsos stare at a large russet buoy topped by a green copper bell. A girl (easily overlooked) lies across the cabin roof, counterbalancing the boys. Their common focus (a visual "anchor," if you will) brings a tranquil balance to the whole composition.
The incredibly pleasing mix of sea green, sky blue, and foam white in the painting cannot be described nor reproduced. The day is bright, the sea is calm, the people are in the same boat, and they have the sea to themselves. How much better could life get in a Hopper painting?

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