Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Edward Hopper (1882-1967)
Perhaps no other artist has so colored perceptions of the American world as Edward Hopper. Who can look at a mid-century urban diner, an old house on Cape Cod, anonymous people in a movie theater or hotel lobby without seeing them through the filter of his works? His paintings live in our memories, invoking a vaguely disconcerting sense of isolation or alienation. Once having seen Hopper’s works, a viewer can never see these subjects in the same way again.Contact Vose about this artist
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Hopper was born along the Hudson River in Nyack, New York. His family encouraged him to study art, but for practicality steered him toward illustration, a trade which he later came to loathe. From 1900 to 1906 he studied at the New York School of Art under Robert Henri and Kenneth Hayes Miller, both of whom emphasized contemporary subjects rather than the academic. Hopper’s fellow students were Rockwell Kent, George Bellows and Guy Pène du Bois; the last became a lifelong friend. During this period he made several trips to Europe, where he followed Henri’s recommendation to study Goya, Manet, Degas, Sisley and Pissarro; their influences could be seen immediately in his Paris street scenes.
Back in New York he painted the same subjects as the Ashcan School artists, but his works exude a mood unique to Hopper. His ability to imbue everyday subjects and figures with a sense of mystery and the unknowable marks him apart. For almost ten years he had little success and had to rely on illustration to support himself, and for years he stopped painting entirely. He began etching around 1919 and developed the traits that shaped his later works: stringent reality, a fierce simplicity and a unique atmosphere. The success of his etchings prompted him to begin painting again, and he was spurred by the success of several shows at the Rehn Gallery in the late twenties. He never again had to resort to illustration.
While Hopper has been called the greatest 20th century realist, his later years, beginning after the War, were difficult, as they were for many realist artists. He was, however, chosen in 1948 by sixty-eight museum directors as one of the ten best American painters, while at the same time facing the onslaught of a rapidly changing art scene. He did not value abstract art and banded together with other like-minded artists such as Raphael Soyer to create a short-lived magazine, Reality, to argue against this trend. While his star diminished somewhat during the era of abstract art, he was extremely influential to later artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, George Segal and Edward Joseph Ruscha. [i]
Hopper’s works are held in innumerable public and private collections. A major retrospective of his work in May 2007 at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts traveled during the next year to Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Illinois.
References: Catalog for Edward Hopper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MFA Publications, Boston, 2007, edited by Sarah McGaughey Tremblay and Mark Polizzotti; Smithsonian Magazine, July 2007. Hopper, by Avis Berman; Edward Hopper: The Art and Artist, by Gail Levin (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1980).
[i] Catalog for Edward Hopper, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. MFA Publications, Boston, 2007, edited by Sarah McGaughey Tremblay and Mark Polizzotti, essay by Judith A. Barter, pages 223-4.