Monday, July 6
Girl At Sewing Machine
Edward Hopper, 1921
In the Public Domain
I like to read biographies and autobiographies, but mostly biographies. About a year ago I was reading up on an artist I wanted to know more about—Edward Hopper.
I had read about an exhibit of Hopper’s art that was opening and at that time had only a vague notion of his work. I knew he was a relatively contemporary American painter, if you call the mid-2oth century contemporary. But I couldn’t name even one of his paintings, much less conjure up an image of his work, other than the one accompanying the announcement of the exhibit—I think it was a lighthouse.
As I said, I like to read biographies, especially biographies of artists. So this was the perfect opportunity to learn more. I think I first did some Google research online just to give me some context.
If you are like I was at that time, with only the slightest knowledge of Hopper and his work, I think you will find learning more about this very interesting artist to be worth your while. For me, it’s the learning experience and finding out more about how they lived and created their art as much as it is the art itself.
There is a lot of information and many books about Hopper. I ended up with two. One is a collection of his most famous paintings in somewhat of a chronological order along with an informative narrative titled, not surprisingly, Edward Hopper. It’s a compendium of articles on his locations and subjects by Carol Troyen, Judith Barter, Janet Comey, Elliot Davis, and Ellen Roberts. I really like this book, and several times a year it sits out on my coffee table
The other is a very comprehensive biography of the man and his life, Edward Hopper-An Intimate Biography by Gail Levin. An intimate biography is right; it’s so in-depth, you feel like you’re living in the next room with Hopper and his wife, Jo--sometimes almost more than you wanted to know, but fascinating all the same.
In case you don’t know a thing about Hopper, here’s a very brief update. Born in the 1880s, he’s originally from the Hudson River Valley in New York, but created most of his art in New York City and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He studied at the New York School of Art and also traveled and studied in Paris and other locations in Europe. Although one of his first works in oil, Soir Bleu, was initially panned, he eventually found success in a watercolor, The Mansard Roof, painted in 1923, and the rest, as "they" say, is history.
He painted both in oil and watercolor throughout his career. He is known for his realistic (although one artist told me he thought it was rather flat) style of painting in both city scenes and landscapes. What’s most interesting to me about his work is the sense of longing or sadness in many of his paintings, both with and without human subjects. I get the feeling that I’ve missed something important that just happened when I view many of his city- and landscapes. Of course, not all are like that; Ground Swell, for example, is a happy, summer, sailing scene.
From my research, the consensus is that his most famous painting is Nighthawks from 1942, in which a man, a woman, and a waiter are viewed in a diner at night, and you are left to guess what intrigue is taking place.
Wondering what all those people in his paintings are up to, along with his beautiful handling of light and shadows in much of his work, is what draws me back to look at his work over and over again.
I hope you take time to find out more about Edward Hopper.