50 NYC Met with Anna Popebogales

The Hopper paintings I came to find were Lighthouse at Two Lights, perhaps the pinnacle of Hopper's series of lighthouse paintings; From Williamsburg Bridge, which shows not the bridge from afar as the main subject of the painting, but three nondescript building tops as seen from the bridge; and Tables for Ladies, in which a waitress leans forward into a restaurant display of grapefruits as perfectly yellow as her blond head or round as her breasts falling forward into her uniform. The title comes from a sign common in the early 1900s. Before then, a woman alone in a restaurant was most likely a prostitute. But, as single women increasingly came to the city to work, restaurants put up such signs to let women know they were welcome and men know the women were not soliciting. Hopper said of the painting, he "wanted the vulgar color of cheap restaurants." In detailing the life that she and Hopper dreamed up for the characters, Jo called the "very blond fine looking waitress all in white" "Olga." The cashier was "Anna Popebogales," and "Max Scherer and his wife Sadie" sat at the table in back.

I was joined in front of these three paintings by a thin older woman wearing cat eye glasses whose erect neck trembled slightly. Her bearing and glittering watch and earrings gave the impression that she wore a diamond tiara. She answered me with a little girl's voice, made even quainter by her soft "r"s.

"Do I think Americans are isolated? Not today. We're thrown with people all the time, unless you're a writer or something like that. But I think there's a strong identification with that isolation in his paintings. It certainly touches a node that you can identify with. And also the time period: things were so simple. You could see a simple lighthouse and building and not be surrounded by McMansions or billboards. I mean, Long Island, you know, doesn't look like that any more. So I think there's a kind of sentimentality in that scene. In that, 'These were the good old days.' This is not the way things look at all. But it captures the mood that he wanted to capture. Also there's a sensual element in this one [Tables for Ladies]. This very lovely young woman leaning over, very suggestively, is really the center of the picture. You have to go hunting for the tables."

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