At one time or another, the cottage appeared to have been the residence for a landscape painter: Mitchell uncovered scraps of oil-soaked material, brushes, and dried-out paints, and on a set of shelves at the back of the room, he found a pile of canvases.
One of the pictures showed a coastal scene, a wide bay of neutral grey. A light-blue sky, a low early-morning sun. An island of pale yellow sand in the distance, a man rowing towards it. He was positioned at the very edge of the frame, as though totally inconsequential to the picture’s composition. He wore a red hat and a white jumper. His face had been turned to the viewer but the features were obscured and when you looked closer, it seemed as though they had been scoured from the canvas. The sun unravelled in the high corner of the frame, a dissolving centre of white. Mitchell found himself drawn to the painting, and he removed it from the Old Room, intending to take it up to his apartment.
‘Never had you down as an art lover,’ Hopper said, when he saw the painting on Mitchell’s desk. ‘I always heard that prison was too soft on people. Now I know that it’s true.’
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