Saturday, 3 January 2009


Edward Hopper (1882-1967) Self portrait 1906

Edward Hopper was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. Whilst popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolourist and printmaker in etching.

He was born in upper Nyack, New York, a yacht-building center north of NYC, the only son of comfortably well-off middle class family. He studied illustration in NYC at a commercial art school before switching to painting and studied at the New York School of Art from 1901 to 1906, largely under Robert Henri.

Hopper's studio at No. 3, The Studio Building, Washington Square North

He made three trips to Europe between 1906 and 1910 but remained unaffected by the great European realists - Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Goya, Edouard Monet - whose work had been introduced to him by his NYC teachers. His early paintings, such as Le pavillon de flore, were committed to realism and exhibited some of the basic characteristics that he was to retain throughout his career: compositional style based on simple, large geometric forms; flat masses of colour;and the use of architectural elements in his scenes for their strong verticals, horizontals, and diagonals.

Until 1925, he was little known and was obliged to work as a commercial artist, when he painted House by the Railroad, which was acclaimed a landmark in American art that marked the advent of his mature style. The emphasis on blunt shapes and angles and the stark play of light and shadow were in keeping with his earlier work, but the mood - which was the real subject of the painting - was new: it conveyed an atmosphere of all-embracing loneliness and almost eerie solitude.

"Nighthawks" inspired by a diner on a corner of Greenwich Avenue in Hopper's neighborhood

Girl in NYC hotel room - 1943

"Hotel Lobby" - 1945

"Office in a small City" - 1953

Nude lady in hotel room 1951

Hopper continued with increasing commercial success and critical plaudits, to work in this style for the rest of his life, refining and purifying it but never abandoning its basic principles. Most of his paintings portray scenes in New York or New England, with deserted streets, half-empty theaters, gas stations, railroad tracks, rooming houses and hotels. Perhaps his best known work "Nighthawks", shows an all-night cafe, its uncommunicative customers illuminated in the pitiless glare of electric lights.

His work, whilst outside the mainstream of mid-20th-century abstractionism, was through its simplified schematic style, one of the major influences on the later representtional revival and on pop art. Edward Hopper died on May 15, 1967, in New York City.

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