124 Dayton, OH: High Noon

Dayton, Ohio: High Noon

You don't soon forget this Hopper painting. As the title indicates, high noon sunlight blasts a white clapboard house set in a field of straw-colored grass. Hopper built an exact replica of the house out of construction paper and studied it at midday under the sunlight that gave the work its title. Hopper delivered High Noon to Rehn in November 1949, and the painting's unusually bright light seems appropriate for the dawning Atomic Age. Like that era's political "brinksmanship," the painting's scene begs a showdown like in the western High Noon (though the movie was made three years later). In the house's doorway, a blond woman in high heels raises her hand to the chest of her open robe.

Jo noted: "Female in stringy blue kimona open in front over possibly naked body, effect sloppy, but such a hot day!" She wrote, "[Edward] has me measured up against a door to see where a taller woman would reach in his picture."

"It was painted in Cape Cod, but it isn't Cape Cod," The Dayton Daily News article announcing the donation of High Noon pontificated, "it's Hopperland." The Hopper painting was the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Haswell, president of Dayton Malleable Metals, who assembled their collection with the help of a former employee of Frank K.M. Rehn: Tom Colt, the Dayton Art Institute's (DAI) first director. When Colt interviewed in the late 1950s, he was horrified. The museum, he said, "had model airplanes, all kinds of things. The garden club hauled in dirt and made gardens in the middle of the galleries."

The DAI almost ended up with a second Hopper. Haswell's fellow DAI collector Otto Spaeth bought Hopper's Carolina Morning, and his wife remembered Hopper as "a sort of one-to-one person if you sat and talked to him, which was difficult to do when his wife was around because she was a regular little magpie and was always crittering around and bursting in and when she was around… Every once in a while he would say 'Now Josephine...' or something like that." But, when Mr. Spaeth died, Mrs. Spaeth gave Carolina Morning to the Whitney.

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