Monday, October 8, 2012

Edward Hopper

Born July 22, 1982, Edward Hopper is one of the most well-known artists of the American realist movement, an artistic movement which took place during the early 20th century.  His artistic development was encouraged from a young age by his parents, who were able to provide him with education and materials, and by his teenage years he was already experimenting with a variety of media in his work.  Hopper’s best-known mature works are his oil paintings; however, he also experimented with watercolor and etching.
Description:’s childhood was very formative to his art.  He grew in Nyack, New York, a coastal area of the Hudson River which was a center for ship-building, and spent his time in and around the water.  Because of his early exposure to the sea and the marine-centric environment in which he grew up, many of his later works feature images of the ocean or ocean-related motifs.  Three themes recur in these paintings: sailboats, lighthouses, and unadulterated seascapes.  “Ground Swell”, painted in 1939, is a good example of these themes.

Hopper’s family environment was also integral to his formation as an artist.  He lived with his father, mother, sister, grandmother, and maid, and his home life was dominated by these women.  His father was a mild-tempered man, and he ceded authority to Hopper’s mother; as a result, much of Hoppers work is female-centric.  His serious paintings primarily feature women, and many of his more facetious drawings and cartoons depict an anti-patriarchal sense of humor.  This painting, “Automat”, is one of his more famous and also incorporates the feeling of loneliness often found in his work.

Hopper began his formal studies as a teenager at the New York Institute of Art and Design, where he studied for six years under the tutelage of William Merritt Chase, an American impressionist painter, and Robert Henri, a member of the Ashcan school.  Certain aspects of impressionism can be detected in Hopper’s paintings; in particular, the emphasis on lighting and de-emphasis of sharp, concrete details have been compared to the impressionist style.  Aspects of the Ashcan school are also incorporated in Hopper’s paintings; specifically, the focus on daily life in an urban environment are common between the two.  “Morning Sun”, painted in 1952, demonstrates both of these characteristics.


Following the conclusion of his education, Hopper acquired a job at an advertising agency, illustrating covers for magazines.  He detested this job, and during his time there he took several trips to Paris under the premise of learning about the new styles of art developing there.  It was while he was in Paris that he began to experiment with the realistic, voyeur-ish styles that he employed in his later works.
Description: spent a period of time in his twenties and thirties struggling to develop his own style.  To support himself financially, he had to continue his work as an illustrator, while still trying to find work as a free-lance painter.  He began etching and producing posters to contribute to World War I propaganda, and received some recognition for these works.  By his early forties, Hopper had gained more public recognition, and was able to support himself by painting alone.  In 1924, he married Josephine Nivison, a fellow artist and former schoolmate.  She was integral to Edward’s career as an artist, managing his interviews and serving as a model for the women in many of his paintings.  However, she only modeled for one portrait, entitled “Jo Painting”, which he completed in 1936.

In his paintings, Hopper attempted to portray the interactions between people and their environments.  His work is mostly very simple, and shows the day-to-day activities of ordinary people going about their lives.  He focused on city life, but some of his paintings also depict rural scenes.  Hopper preferred to spend his time alone, and drew inspiration for his art from the sights he saw on walks through the city and country.  One motif which occurs in the vast majority of Hopper’s paintings is that of solitude.  In his early years, this theme was very pronounced in his work; as he matured as an artist, its presence became more subtle, but can still be noted in most of his paintings.  “Nighthawks”, perhaps his best known painting, exemplifies this mature approach to solitude.  The people in the painting are in an environment which encourages interaction, yet they keep to themselves, and even the couple seated together in the corner do not look at each other.


Hopper died on May 15, 1967.  The simplicity of his style, and his ability to incorporate elements of other styles into his own have made him one of the more influential painters of the American realist movement.
One thing that I found interesting and attractive about Hopper’s philosophy is that he didn’t intend to assign meaning to the commonplace.  His art was simple and purely observational, and any deeper meaning associated with it was designated by other people.  Hopper’s work is strong enough to stand without a story, and this allows the viewer to create his own meaning for the art based on personal experience.
When I was a freshman in high school, I learned about Edward Hopper in a visual arts class.  I loved the simplicity of his paintings, and the similarities that I could draw between his style and that of the impressionists.  The following year, I was fortunate enough to see an exhibition of his work at the National Art Gallery.  I chose to research him for this project because I was curious about the factors that influenced his work, and I wished to take a more in-depth look at some of his paintings.

Works Cited

Mamunes, Lenora. Edward Hopper Encyclopedia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. Print.

Hopper, Edward. Edward Hopper. Milano: Skira, 2009. Print.

Levin, Gail. Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography. New York: Rizzoli, 2007. Print.

Edward Hopper. “Edward Hopper: His paintings, biography, and quotations”.

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