20081214

92 Williamstown, MA: Morning in a City

Williamstown, Massachusetts: Morning in a City

[Williams College art museum]

On my way to see the Hopper in Williamstown, I stopped for an early breakfast in a diner along Highway 6, the solitary road through this tiny Berkshire town where large houses sit on generous lawns. The Hopperesque d├ęcor included checkerboard patterns, pink neon circling the old clock, and 1950s memorabilia. The smell of bacon rose through the steamy air, as did cries from children awaiting pancakes, neighbors hallooing good morning, and college kids laughing about their hangovers.

Ah, morning in a city. Which is the title of the Hopper painting I came to see in Williamstown and hung just up the road from the diner, on the campus of exclusive Williams College, in a tiny rock octagonal building that looked more like an ancient English church than a house for modern art.

Morning in a City depicts a very different morning unfolding. A lone woman stands in a small room, naked, absentmindedly holding a chemise and looking out the room's only window, through which sunlight illuminates her yellow-pink skin in the otherwise dark blue scene. Unlike most of his character's indistinct faces, hers is detailed, with round eye irises and bright red lips. Painted in 1944, she might be alone waiting for her man to come home from the war. The bed offers no haven, as it is way too small for her to fit in. In the building opposite hers, two windows with half-drawn blinds seem to be eyes peering back at her. The painting is about three-and-a-half feet by five, so the woman appears almost life-sized, thus lifelike, and you the viewer are in the same room with her. Unfortunately, no one was in the same room with me. So I sought out others where they could be found during morning in a city.

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