In comparison with the contemporary Dutch American painters, De Kooning and Mondrian, Hopper’s paintings are realistic, and immediately evoke a sense of identification, at least for many of us. Hopper’s work was initially focused on cityscapes, but later he ventured out in the countryside and produced a number of interesting pictures based on small town life.
Hopper’s best and best-known painting is entitled, “Nighthawks”. The painting shows a few people sitting on counter stools at the counter of a diner style restaurant. It is obviously well after midnight based on the eerily dark and quiet street. The diner is brightly lit and stands apart from the quiet but dark street, from where the artist viewed the people in the diner. Although, to this author, some of his other paintings are also outstanding, the “Nighthawks” painting is viewed as Hopper’s best and best known.
Edward Hopper was raised in early Dutch Hudson River country. He was born in the small Hudson River town of Nyack, New York. It is reported that his ancestors were of English, Dutch and Welsh backgrounds. Hopper showed an aptitude for art early in his life, and told his parents that he wanted to become an artist, and wanted to attend an art institute. His parents being practical, and probably realistic, urged him to learn illustration, so that he at least would be able to support himself and his family, after he grew up. Following high school, he enrolled at the Corresponding School of Illustrating in New York City. Although it was apparently a correspondence school, Hopper attended the school in person, commuting daily from Nyack to the school in New York City by train.
After spending one year at the Illustration School, he switched to the New York School of Art, also referred to as the Chase School, because the school was founded by William Merritt Chase [1849-1916], a reasonably well known American artist. While at the school, Hopper worked with Robert Henri [1869-1929], and it was Henri who gave direction to Hopper’s development as an artist. Hopper’s contemporaries at the School were such later luminaries as George Bellows and Rockwell Kent. Hopper remained at the School for several years, supporting himself with teaching, and working as an illustrator. While at the school he also learned much from his teachers and contemporaries. Along the way he even managed to travel to Europe several times to view the artistic developments, then going on in Europe, and notably in Paris. Although he admired what the impressionists were doing, he was not sufficiently impressed to follow their style of painting. He started out as a realist, and remained a realist, as an artist, for the remainder of his life.
It was not until 1913, when he was 31 years old, that Hopper exhibited at the Armory Show, and sold his first painting. Even after that first success, Hopper’s work did not gain acceptance by the critics and art buyers until 10 years later. In 1923, at age 41, Hopper sold his second painting, a watercolor, painted with a medium that he had switched to then. The title of that work was “The Mansard Roof”. In the following year Hopper exhibited a group of watercolors at a New York City gallery, and every painting he exhibited was sold. A subsequent gallery exhibit, this time a solo exhibit at the Rehn Gallery in New York City, also sold out. This was the time Hopper clearly had arrived as a painter, and as an artist.
In 1924, with his reputation as a painter solidly established, he settled in Greenwich Village, where he remained for the rest of his life, as a full time and well-established painter. In 1925, he renewed his friendship with a former student from the Art Institute. Her name was Jo Nevison. They got married the same year, in 1925, when Nevison was 40 and Hopper was 42 years old.
In 1925, Hopper painted what is also considered one of his major pictures, entitled, “The House by the Railroad”. In 1929, Hopper was included in a major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition was named, “Paintings by Nineteen Living Americans”. The following year, in 1930, Hopper’s, “The House by the Railroad” entered the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Also in 1930, the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased Hopper’s painting entitled, “Early Sunday Morning”. In 1933, Hopper was given a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and it 1950, the Whitney Museum of American Art gave Hopper a more extensive retrospective exhibition.
Based on the above, Hopper clearly had become one of the major American graphic artists of the twentieth century. His life can best be described by the following quote from Lloyd Goodrich, shown in the paragraph below.
“No artist has painted a more revealing portrait of twentieth century America. But he was not merely an objective realist. His art was charged with strong personal emotion, with a deep attachment to our familiar everyday world, in all its ugliness, banality, and beauty”.
Edward Hopper was born in Nyack, New York, on July 22, 1882. He married Jo Nevison in 1925. So far as is known the couple had no children. Hopper passed away in New York City on May 15, 1967, at the age of 84 years. He bequeathed his art remaining in his possession to the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City, upon his death.
Edward Hopper, www.leninimports.com/edward_hopper.html
Edward Hopper, www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/hopper/
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