Edward Hopper: July 22,1882-May 15,1967...United
of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination."
~ Edward Hopper
The master of the solitary landscape painting is
New York artist Edward Hopper. His realist approach to his land and cityscapes that focus on light
would influence many contemporary artist that followed him (like Mark Rothko and David
Hockney). In his youth, he would help his dad at the family general store and enjoyed drawing.
He created numerous self-portraits to improve his skills. After high school, he attended Correspondence School of Illustrating
in New York City to study illustration. He transferred to the Chase School of Art in New York under the schools founder William Merritt Chase the following year. Hopper didn’t respect Chase as a teacher, so he sought
outside sources to help him improve. For a while in his early career he would work under the advisement of Robert
Henri, one of the original American Realists. Under Henri, Hopper learned to dismiss old academic formulas and pave
a new path in art; Realism. “[Henri was] the most influential teacher I had.”
Hopper would work for the next twenty years in the commercial field as designer or illustrator, working on various posters,
advertisements, and illustrations. On a trip to Europe, he was looking at some of the late impressionistic works and was impressed
by their use of light. Light almost instantly became a focus of Hopper’s as he created his art.
Even though Hopper was learning a lot about making
art and his art skills were improving, he was being rejected by academic juries and art dealers all over. He kept working
at it until one sale turned into a sold-out exhibition and he was established at the age of forty-two. Hopper, along with
Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton, made American Realism the focus of art around the world. “Great
art is the outward expression of an inner life in the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the
Speaking of the inner life of the artist, it may also be prudent to note Hopper's
way of being. He personally pained over every idea and every painting. He was deliberate with every part of a painting. This
is the way he was. When he spoke his works were slow and calculated.
Hopper placed so much focus on architectural elements
that it is easy to understand when he stated that "all I wanted to do was to paint sunlight on the side
of a house." Those architectural painting influenced other visual media like movies (House by the Railroad inspired the house in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho), however,
of all of his over 800 painted land and cityscapes, the
one that is most recognized and perhaps the most influential to the art world is Nighthawks.
We see the lonely customers sitting in the all-night diner with no door somewhere in the city. The customers in the diner
are the nighthawks; predators looking for their prey. We see the amazing details while many things are hidden from our vantage
point. This allows us to create the story. That is what gives Nighthawks its power. “Unconsciously, probably, I was painting the loneliness of a large city." It is uniqie that Hopper
lived in urban areas, however, he rejected the Perisian and New York styles that were popular during his life. For the painting,
Hopper used himself as the model for the two seated men and his wife as the woman. Like most of his work, the scene is ordinary.
But he take the ordinary and creates a extraordinary image through presentation, lighting to add drama, the hint of a memory
from our past, and amazing skill. “If you could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.”
1942. Oil on canvas. 30 x 60 inches. Art Institute
of Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Hopper made Greenwich Village home. There he and his wife, Josephine "Jo"
Nivison, lived and worked until the end of their careers. She was also an artist that never felt that her work dreams were
as important as her love for Hopper. Although they were loyal to one another, they fought fiercely over nearly every matter
in their life; art, support, their cat Arthur, learning to drive, money, and so on. Sometimes it became physical, but they
would work things out because they needed one another. Jo was always scared Edward would fall in love with a model he was
painting, so he was only allowed to use her a a model, as you see in my wifes favorite Hopper, Automat. He died in in his studio at the age of 84, and Jo died ten months later.
Des Moines Art Center, Iowa, USA.