Edward Hopper1882-1967Born on July 22, 1882in New York, EdwardHopper is considered tobe one of America’sgreatest realist paintersof the twentieth century.
Hopper studied illustration atthe New York School of Art,between 1900 and 1906. In 1906 he travelled to Paris,London, Amsterdam, Berlin andBrussels to study works byEuropean artists.Returning to New York in 1907,he painted and worked part-time as an illustrator for fictionand trade magazines.
From 1910, Hopper spent his summers painting in rural New England, inGloucester and Cape Anne, Massachusetts, and in Maine.In 1913 he moved to Washington Square, in the Greenwich Village area ofNew York, which remained his permanent base.Hopper’s subjects were derived from three main sources: - everyday American life such as restaurants, cafés, gas stations, theaters, and street scenes; - images of loneliness and detachment where he often depicted solitary figures (mostly women) occupied with their own thoughts, bathed by the sun light. - and third, seascapes and rural landscapes.In 1923, with the encouragement of his wife artist Josephine Niviso, Hopperbegan painting in watercolour. In 1924, he had his first exhibition to reachcritical and commercial success.
From 1930, Edward and Josephine (Jo) used to spend summer painting in Truroon Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they built a home in 1934.Many artists have cited him as influential, including Mark Rothko. His cinematiccompositions and use of light and dark made him popular with filmmakers suchas Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho , 39 Steps, Rear Window), Ridley Scott (BladeRunner), Wim Wenders (American friend).
Hopper made several extended trips abroad and came under the influenceof French and European literature and culture.The painting that apparently impressed him the most during his travels wasRembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” which he viewed in Amsterdam.But he would be stronglyinfluenced by many flemishworks, his painted womenrevealing frequently aVermeer touch – staticfigures with light comingdown from a window as iffrom some heavenly source.
The window is in fact a recurring theme in Hopper’s paintings. It is this hint ofvoyeurism linked to an acute sense of ‘being alone’ that so capturesHopper’s twentieth century America.Edward Hopper peered through windows into the soul of the US.Hopper avoided sentimentality to the point of verging on detachment.He painted mundane places and ordinary people doing ordinary things, andpowerfully revealed an essential disquiet in that existence.
The characters in Nighthawks are not going anywhere; loneliness and desolation is Nighthawksexpressed by the presence of anonymous, non-communicating figures.We feel the emptiness created by the massive dark window,
The famous work might be a manifesto of the film noir aesthetic.
A couple in their living room observed through the open window of a cityapartment. The pair are separated by space both physical and psychological.Disquietness shows in the angle of the woman’s starkly lit shoulder as sheturns away to plunk a solitary note on a piano.
Compartment C,Car 2931938Hopper would make thecrossed legs of a femalesubject the brightest spoton an otherwise darkcanvas in a number of laterpaintings.Hitchcock, a great admirerof Hopper, was influencedby this picture in a scene of39 Steps.
Reading is also a frequent theme in Hopper: many of hiswomen have a book in hands. Maybe they don’t really read.
39 StepsHitchcock inspired in Hopper: Madeleine Carroll reads, her legs crossed
The female subject of his 1931 painting Barber Shop is also in asimilar pose:The coulours, the shades, the angled light bathing the woman, allremind of Vermeer famous paintings.
“Night Windows” causedcontroversy: it shows therounded corner of anapartment as if seen from apassing elevated train. Theilluminated interior is seenthrough three windows.A rounded woman in atranslucent red slip, herback to the observer andhalf-obscured by the centralwindow, is captured slightlybent over as if puttingsomething on an unseenchair.
Automat, 1927Hoppers wife, Jo, served as model for the woman.The restaurant appears to be empty, no signs of any life on the street outside.This sense of loneliness was associated with the concept of urban alienation. The woman’s reflection is absent from the window. Is she real?
Chop Suey,1929Close attentionto the effectsof light
“Hopper is always on the verge of telling a story."John Updike.
Thw work is figurative, but manygeometric elements surround thehuman figures, like the light and bluesurface from outside through thewindow.
Tables for ladies, 1930 This time we look from the street into a restaurant’s front window – more like in Nighthawks. Some influence of dutch painters can be found in the two females , one in white, one in black.
A message of sensuality mixed with melancholy.
Sunday1926Sunday, the owner or the employee of a small store is waiting for customers.The street is empty and indifferent. He is looking to nowhere. He is inside hisworking time but he is not working.Hopper, it seems, calls our attention to that: when we are not working we areleft empty. We feel empty of ourselves.
He is outside of his life, his home, but still nearby – he is in a similar situation as theman in Sunday. He is in between what his life is and himself.He is here, near his house, and he is not – he is looking somewhere else.What is he looking at? The gaze of the man, it seems, like in the Sunday painting, isdirected at somewhere that is nowhere: he sees something without beinginterested in what he sees.
Office in a small city, 1953Straight geometry adds to the impersonal atmosphere of the office, and further helpsto create a feeling of containment and solitude.Bare windows, frames, a solitary person with an undefinite look, empty streets andfaçades shining in early morning sunlight.
Blazing with all the brightness of summer, a solitary woman stands framed inthe doorway of a lonely house somewhere on the American prairie. She hasjust opened her robe, and she looks up into the sunlight that falls on her barebreasts, trapped on the threshold, neither outside nor in.We have a sense that this isn’t a real house at all; it’s as artificial as a movieset. This place is truly in the middle of nowhere.
The last car seems to have passed long ago, the gas station has theappearance of a last outpost.The bright, almost pure white fluorescent light in the gas station, incontrast, is almost painful to look at.
Wim WendersStreet Corner(Butte,Montana), 2003Photography ‘Vermeer was my biggest hero, then later on it was definitely Hopper’. Wim Wenders
Later worksHopper’s later work became less sensuous, more geometric and deliberately surreal.