John F. Kennedy visited Naples the second of July, 1963. It was a brief visit during which the President was deeply moved by the teeming and ancient energy of the place. And just as the sea does not plan its waves, which fall as they will and that’s all, he had an intuition. Napoli was the here and now.
A universe of free creative impulse developing without mortgaging the future, aimed in a chaotic space, wonderfully ordered by unique and isolated people, placed in an anticipated place, where the people expect a dancing star.
Just as in a painting of Edward Hopper, the vantage point and the temple of the glance, aimed outward insinuates itself into an environment in which the characters are alone and even when they are different, they are isolated from one another, with faraway thoughts, lost in their own world, with a desire to be somewhere else, deprived of a recognizable face.
Kennedy intuited the triple parallelism.
He felt himself carried over into that dimension of great realism, immersed in unreality.
Vesuvius, Hopper and himself. A simple composition of the gulf of the city which represented “the element of silence” turned toward chaos, dispersed in a dimension of hearing toward that which is hidden, “toward that which without a doubt exists, but is not revealed,” imposing to the viewers a question of fundamental importance: what will happen after? This is what Kennedy wanted to know. What would happen after.
Indeed, in that period, he was alone, isolated, watching the scenes of his life through a pane of crystal glass. An apparent stasis, imbued with that tranquility which is like the quiet before the storm. That world of honest affairs covered up an intense violence inside that earthly coil in which life transpires.
That plain condition of his soul was worthy of interpretation. His son Patrick dead, misguided romantic escapades, secret correspondence with Nikita Khrushchev which planned the end of the Cold War, his relationship with the loathed Edgar Hoover, the elections of ’64 and heroin from Vietnam, were all coming together in that eternal return of himself with which he celebrated an accord with oblivion. For Freud, it is a continual return to the same in order to believe that one is living, and in order to not remember, for him a wretched comedy, beginning with the scene of Atlas shrugging, which forced him a moment of liberation. Only the minotaur, enclosed in the labyrinth of inexpression which life gives could express by living. It was clear that the truth he was looking for was not in those things but inside himself. His mind was open to anything without being attached to anything and he lived without fear of the future, which was only an unknown place where to lose oneself and then rediscover oneself, reducing all language to a smile.
Just then he wanted to honor his more spontaneous impressions with tranquil stability, among the external clash of many different voices and elements that were not a part of his vision, and with his policies outlined the confines between man and morals, leading to the question whether we use power or whether it is not power that is using us.
He decided to just live. Simply. No more struggling and forcing things, he would only observe what happened in silence, letting things happen, allowing what is to exist. Releasing every tension before the flux of life which is. And that which was happening was liberating. And so the glad and elegant soul that he was, he chose the extraordinary as the required model, finding inspiration in a sunset, leaving the past behind, with gusto.
An imperceptible nod of the head was the implicit understanding of the work. Three months later Kennedy was dead, along with the hopes of a presidency that had inspired the world, holding within itself all the magic and uniqueness of that beautiful something which belong only to love that is missed. Hopper was inconsolable. As always, there was nothing excessive in him, nothing artificial or commonplace. His art and his life had eliminated, silently, and perhaps through silence, these three things. But in response to the question as to whether Lee Harvey Oswald – or whoever had shot the gun in those seven and a half seconds – had missed his target, Hopper always responded in the same way: he painted the now, the moment in which life manifests itself in its own form, that is to say, in the shape of the mindfulness of possibility.
The princess Irene Galitzine, whom Gianni Agnelli had introduced to his wife during a vacation at Amalfi, asked Kennedy what he would have done after his presidency to escape boredom. With a Socratic smile, Jack replied that he would probably named ambassador to Italy.
In 1966, with a style consistent with his silent anonymity, Hopper arrived in Naples. Here he assumed Goethe’s pseudonym during his Italian travels. Painter. He was guest of Gaetano Filangieri. In this house, in this city, he recounted his last work dedicated to Kennedy, who finally returned to Italy to realized the possibility of becoming ambassador.