One of the cornerstones of Ralph Norton’s collection is ‘August in the City’ (1945). Norton purchased ‘August in the City’ from the Rehn Gallery in 1947 and bequeathed it to the museum.
A Sweltering Still Life
‘August in the City’ is a still life of the interior of a rounded, richly furnished living room. Interestingly, the perspective is from outside, highlighting the empty street corner. The centerpiece of the composition is the female figure of a sculpture on a table. Due to the downsloping street on which the viewer is standing, the street level room is viewed from below.
Despite the lack of people, the picture gives you an apprehensive feeling of being surrounded by New Yorkers. It feels like you could walk around the upward sloping corner and quickly run into someone.
Hopper plays with color in the picture. He inserts a bright red door at the right edge of the frame. Inside, the chairs are covered with a deep violet velvet. Meanwhile, the light green of the park’s trees across the road is blended with yellow to match the color of the curtains framing the indoor scene. So strong is the sunlight catching its edge, the most shaded of the trees looks as if it is being lit by fire.
This light feels much like the Floridian sun outside of the museum. This and the general feeling of sweltering opulence in ‘August in the City’ makes the Norton Museum a most opportune place for it to have ended up. Similar to ‘New York Office’, the sun spotlights a female figure. However, in this picture, the figure is a statue instead of a woman. The Norton Museum’s interpretation of this similarity is clever and deserves mentioning. Their label text states:
Hopper typically protested when critics suggested [an interior with a solitary woman] was a commentary on the alienation of modern life. “August in the City” may have been a rare tongue-in-cheek response to such interpretations.
Florida as Industrial Nightmare
Driving inland, the wealth of Palm Beach gives way to the flat monocultures of sugar cane and corn irrigated by the dwindling supplies of Lake Okeechobee. The county seat of this district is Belle Glade. It is an industrial nightmare of dump trucks, pesticide plants and shanty towns housing immigrant workers.
My mother and I stop at an isolated roadside diner outside of town for grilled cheese and milkshakes. Across the highway, razor wire fencing protects the lake from polluters. But nothing can protect the land.
‘This is the a–hole of America,’ my mother grimaces, sipping on her shake.
Luckily, we won’t be here for long. It’s on to fairer sights in Sarasota and its circus-inspired museum.
Do you love the natural beauty of Florida? Or hate how Florida’s nature is being ruined?