Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Letters in Painting: Edward Hopper

Jo Sketching at Good Harbor Beach (1925-1928) by Edward Hopper

I love the description The Smithsonian makes of Edward Hopper (1882-1967):

"Imagine a solitary man, an artist, who, for more than a half-century, observes the fleeting moments of life as he haunts the streets and movie houses of Greenwich Village or rides the elevated train throughout Manhattan, peering down into the windows of office buildings as he rumbles past. Life unfolds all around him, but he doesn’t linger on the story; he’s more interested in the depth of feeling that these moments evoke in him. This artist was Edward Hopper (1882-1967), a shy and secretive man who, with his wife Jo, lived in a spare walk-up apartment and adjoining studio near Washington Square, rarely traveling except for summers spent in New England. Along the way, Hopper produced such icons of American art as Nighthawks (1942), the definitive American painting of a late-night diner; Rooms for Tourists (1945), the mysterious Victorian house that has influenced several generations of noir filmmakers; and Office at Night (1940), which continues to intrigue us with its sense of drama frozen in time."

However, the picture we have chosen is one of his lesser-known pieces, depicting his wife Jo. A book of his sketches, as this article suggests, reveals Jo could have been his unsung collaborator. Both had studied at the New York School of Art, and before their marriage in 1924, it was she who was the more famous. Soon, however, his eerie scenes of isolated people and buildings were a huge success – visions of motels, gas stations and late-night cafeterias that seemed to epitomise modern-day America – and she duly subordinated her career to his.

The Lighthouse at Two Lights (1929)

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