Edward Hopper’s paintings seem to be located in a twilight zone born in his own imagination. They depict a world no longer in a state of innocence, but has not yet reached a state of self-destruction.
Hopper shows us a situation that no other American artist captured in quite this way. his spare, personal vision of modern American life became a forerunner of American Pop Art. As a teacher introducing students to Hopper, I found that most were more comfortable painting flowers and sunsets a close second. His use of silent space was sometimes uncomfortable, or perhaps encouraged too much thinking.
He struggled to find his personal style, sometimes going months without finding what he wanted to paint. Working in oil on canvas, watercolor and etchings, he did posters for the War effort, jumping from one medium to another. Often painting over a previous paint while he changed his mind. Once the religious feeling present in the earlier works had dissipated, nothing new replaced it. Only emptiness, a vacuum remained. It wasn’t so much Hopper’s themes that were typically American, as the actual things he depicted; railroads, train stations and gas stations. He was likely the first painter ever to dignify the latter feature of American landscape by using it as a motif in art.
Hopper was a great admirer of Ernest Hemingway. In 1927, Scribner’s Magazine, for whom Hopper did illustrations, published Hemingway’s story The Killers. Hopper wrote a letter to the editors, saying how refreshing it was to find such an honest piece of work in an American magazine, after wading through the endless sugar-coated mush that was usually published. And, he added, the story made no concessions to mass taste.
His ideal was to make his paintings with such simple honesty as to give almost the shock of reality itself.
In 1923 Hopper married Josephine Nivison, an artist who was his exact opposite in every way. She was short, gregarious, sociable, and liberal. He, on the other hand, was tall, secretive, shy, quiet, introspective, introverted and conservative. She once said that “talking to Eddie is like dropping a stone in a well except that it doesn’t thump when it hits bottom.”
“GIRL AT A SEWING MACHINE” 1921
He began painting short isolated moments saturated with suggestion. They have silent spaces and uneasy encounters, touching us where we are most vulnerable.
He got more of the quality of America into his paintings of urban landscapes which were filled with poetic meaning.
Typically Hopper, he said “I was never able to paint what I set out to paint.”
research included: (Ivo Kranzfelder)