Pre-War American Painting
American painter, active mainly in New York.
He trained under
Robert Henri, 1900-06, and between 1906 and 1910 made three trips
to Europe, though these had little influence on his style.
Hopper exhibited at the Armoury Show in 1913, but from then until 1923
he abandoned painting, earning his living by commercial illustration.
Thereafter, however, he gained widespread recognition as a central
exponent of American Scene painting, expressing the loneliness, vacuity,
and stagnation of town life. Yet Hopper remained always an individualist:
`I don't think I ever tried to paint the American scene; I'm trying to
Paintings such as Nighthawks
(Art Institute of Chicago, 1942)
convey a mood of loneliness and desolation by their emptiness or by
the presence of anonymous, non-communicating figures. But of this picture
Hopper said: `I didn't see it as particularly lonely... Unconsciously,
probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city.'
Deliberately so or not, in his still, reserved, and blandly handled
paintings Hopper often exerts a powerful psychological impact -- distantly
akin to that made by the Metaphysical painter
but while de Chirico's effect was obtained by making the unreal seem real,
Hopper's was rooted in the presentation of the familiar and concrete.
1942 (120 Kb); Oil on canvas, 30 x 60 in;
The Art Institute of Chicago
1925-30 (110 Kb); Oil on canvas, 25 1/16 x 20 3/8 in;
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
American scene painting
Edward Hopper painted American landscapes and cityscapes
with a disturbing truth, expressing the world around him as a chilling,
alienating, and often vacuous place. Everybody in a Hopper picture
appears terribly alone. Hopper soon gained a widespread reputation as
the artist who gave visual form to the loneliness and boredom of life
in the big city. This was something new in art, perhaps an expression
of the sense of human hopelessness that characterized the Great
Depression of the 1930s.
Edward Hopper has something of the lonely gravity peculiar to
a courageous fidelity to life as he feels it to be.
He also shares Winslow Homer's power to recall the feel of things.
For Hopper, this feel is insistently low-key and ruminative. He shows
the modern world unflinchingly; even its gaieties are gently mournful,
echoing the disillusionment that swept across the country after the start
of the Great Depression in 1929.
Cape Cod Evening (1939; 77 x 102 cm (30 1/4 x 40 in))
should be idyllic, and in a way it is. The couple enjoy the evening sunshine
outside their home, yet they are a couple only technically and the enjoyment
is wholly passive as both are isolated and introspective in their reveries.
Their house is closed to intimacy, the door firmly shut and the windows
covered. The dog is the only alert creature, but even it turns away from
the house. The thick, sinister trees tap on the window panes, but there
will be no answer.
© 31 Dec 1995,
Nicolas Pioch -
Thanks to the
BMW Foundation, the WebMuseum
and contributors for their support.